BACKGROUND Acute tubular necrosis (ATN) is the most common reason for acute kidney injury (AKI), and there is still an absence of effective therapies. OBJECTIVE To assess the value of bone marrow cell mobilization by stem cell factor (SCF) and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) therapy in rats with gentamicin-induced ATN. METHODS ATN was induced in male Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats with five daily high-dose intraperitoneal injections of gentamicin. Subcutaneous injections of SCF and GM-CSF were administered simultaneously and these cytokines were observed on days 2, 5, 10, 17, 24, and 31. Peripheral blood and renal tissue CD34+ cell count, mortality rate, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), serum creatinine (SCr), creatinine clearance rate (CCr), and histopathologic lesion scores were determined. Twelve hours after bone marrow ablation (BMA) by lethal X-ray radiation, specific pathogen-free (SPF) ATN rats were given five daily injections of SCF and GM-CSF. BUN, SCr, and histopathologic lesion scores were evaluated on days 2, 5, and 10. RESULTS Peripheral blood CD34+ cell count increased significantly in ATN rats between 2 and 10 days after SCF and GM-CSF injection. Mortality was reduced from 34.7% in the ATN group to 18.6% in the ATN+CSF. In addition, cytokines administration significantly decreased SCr and BUN. Moreover, cytokines rapidly ameliorated tubular injury. There was no significant effect on ATN rats after BMA. CONCLUSIONS This study demonstrated that SCF and GM-CSF effectively mobilized bone marrow cells in ATN rats, and cytokines administration partially prevented gentamicin-induced ATN. These results suggest that bone marrow stem cell (BMSC) mobilization may be an effective therapy for ATN.