Erythropoietin (EPO) is the main humoral stimulus of erythropoiesis. In adult mammals, the kidney releases EPO in response to hypoxic stress. Conflicting data have suggested either renal tubular or peritubular cell origins of EPO synthesis in vivo. In situ hybridization studies were performed to define further the kidney cell type(s) capable of increasing EPO gene expression during hypoxic stimulation. EPO gene expression was stimulated in mice exposed to acute hypobaric hypoxia. Kidneys from hypoxic and control normoxic mice were obtained. Six digoxigenin-labelled oligonucleotide probes complementary to EPO exon sequences were utilized for in situ hybridization for EPO messenger RNA. Positive hybridization signals were identified in some proximal tubular cells, confined to the inner third of the renal cortex of hypoxic mouse kidney.