The cellular effects of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I) are modified by a family of binding proteins (IGFBPs) that act as reservoirs in serum for the growth factor and are produced locally by tissues, including the kidney. Because regulation of these proteins may influence renal repair, either directly or by their interactions with IGF-I, we studied gene expression during the recovery from renal failure induced by folic acid and during the compensatory increase in renal function following uninephrectomy (UNX). Expression of IGF-I, the IGF-I receptor (IGF-IR), and all six IGFBPs was detected using an ribonuclease protection assay. IGFBP-5 was the most abundant binding protein mRNA present in kidney, whereas IGFBP-2 and -6 were the least abundant. During regeneration following folic acid-induced acute renal failure, IGF-I, IGFBP-3, and IGFBP-5 mRNAs declined in abundance approximately two- to threefold. On the other hand, IGF-IR, IGFBP-1, and IGFBP-2 were increased (approximately 2-, 6-, and 6-fold, respectively) in the first 24 h. IGFBP-1 mRNA remained elevated for at least 3 days. Despite the known increase in cellular RNA content following UNX, little difference in specific expression of mRNAs was observed. Because IGFBP-1 has been shown to stimulate cell migration and has previously been localized to the distal nephron, the site of greatest injury in the folic acid model, these data are compatible with the notion that this protein may function either directly to affect cellular repair or act as a reservoir for IGF-I under conditions of cellular damage.