In diverse organisms, cells adapt to hyperosmotic stress by accumulating organic osmolytes. Mammalian renal medullary cells are routinely under osmotic stress. Two renal cell lines, Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) and PAP-HT25, have been widely used to study mammalian osmotic regulation. In these epithelial cells, extracellular hypertonicity induces gene transcription of proteins directly involved in the metabolism and transport of organic osmolytes. This induction is relatively specific and not part of a generalized stress response. Little is known about the signal transduction pathway between cellular detection of extracellular osmolality and increased specific gene transcription. Here, using differential mRNA display polymerase chain reaction on MDCK cells in isotonic vs. hypertonic medium, we identify a cDNA product corresponding to CD9 antigen mRNA. CD9 antigen is a cell surface glycoprotein originally found in cells of the immune system. Although CD9 antigen has been structurally characterized, its function is unclear. We further demonstrate that CD9 antigen mRNA is present in MDCK and PAP-HT25 cells and that its mRNA abundance is induced by extracellular hypertonicity, but not by heat stress. Also, we show that accumulation of organic osmolytes markedly attenuates the CD9 mRNA induction, as only recently demonstrated with genes involved in the hyperosmotic stress response. This suggests a role for CD9 antigen in this response.