Calcium oxalate (CaOx) nephrolithiasis was induced in male Sprague-Dawley rats by administration of 0.75% ethylene glycol. Urinary excretion of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) was used as a marker of cellular injury. Lipid peroxides (LP), as marker for free radical injury, were measured as malondialdehyde (MDA) in urine and the kidneys. Urinary oxalate (Ox), LDH, LP, CaOx crystals, and renal LP and CaOx crystal deposits were examined on day 0, 5, 30 and 60 of the experiment. There were significant differences between control and experimental rats in all the parameters except LDH which did not show a significant increase after 15 days. Subconfluent cultures of MDCK and LLCPK1 cells were exposed to various concentrations of oxalate and/or 500 fg/ml CaOx crystals. Cell viability was assayed by trypan blue exclusion, cellular injury was determined by measuring LDH in the media, and free radical injury was measured as MDA contents of the cells. On exposure to both Ox and/or CaOx crystals trypan blue exclusion decreased and LDH and MDA increased significantly in both tissue cultures. LLC-PK1 appeared more sensitive. The results indicate that both oxalate and calcium oxalate crystals are injurious to renal epithelial cells in the kidneys as well as in culture.