Tubulointerstitial fibrosis correlates closely with renal function, although the mechanism regulating tubulointerstitial fibrogenesis remains poorly understood. Since platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) is a growth factor for fibroblasts, we examined the effect of daily (for 7 days) PDGF-AA or PDGF-BB administration on renal tubulointerstitial architecture in rats. PDGF-AA administration at a dose of 5 mg/kg did not affect the renal tubulointerstitium. By comparison, PDGF-BB induced dose-dependent renal tubulointerstitial cell proliferation and fibrosis. At 5 mg/kg, PDGF-BB increased BrdU labeling in tubulointerstitial fibroblasts at 24 hours (19-fold), which peaked at 72 hours (23-fold) with bromodeoxyuridine uptake returning to control values by 7 days. Tubulointerstitial proliferation was associated with the differentiation of these cells into myofibroblasts as evidenced by alpha-smooth muscle actin expression beginning on day 3. The expression of alpha-smooth muscle actin peaked on day 5 and had markedly declined by day 21. In addition, apoptotic cells were identified within the tubulointerstitium on day 3 and progressively increased through day 7, suggesting that the disappearance of myofibroblasts may have occurred through apoptosis. These changes were accompanied by increased expression of alpha 1 (III) collagen mRNA and interstitial accumulation of type III collagen within the renal cortex. By morphometric analysis, an approximately twofold increase in collagen III immunolabeling within the interstitial compartment was evident at 24 hours and peaked on days 5 to 7 (approximately fourfold). These data suggest that PDGF-BB may be an important mediator of tubulointerstitial hyperplasia and fibrosis.