Renal failure, both acute and chronic, represents an important health problem by its social, sanitary and economic aspects. Mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK) are a family of mediators involved in the transduction of extracellular stimuli to intracellular responses. The best studied members of this family are extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1 and ERK2), Jun NH2-terminal kinase (JNK), p38 kinase and extracellular signal regulated kinases 5 (ERK5) also known as big MAP Kinase 1 (BMK1). MAPKs plays a role in regulating renal function and all these pathways have been demonstrated to be activated in many “in vivo” and cellular models or renal failure. As MAP kinases are key regulators in the control of cell proliferation and cell death, many more or less specific inhibitors of these pathways are being developed for the treatment of tumors. The purpose of this review is to examine the data available on the role of MAPKs activation in “in vivo” models of renal failure, as well as in different renal cell types (especially in mesangial cells, podocytes, tubular epithelial cells and fibroblasts) subjected to stress or damage. We have also reviewed the effect of MAPKs inhibition on renal damage, both “in vivo” and “in vitro”. Data collected allow to suggest that therapy of chronic and acute renal disease with MAPKs inhibitors is a promising therapeutic area, although much more basic and clinical studies are necessary before this kind of therapy can be used in the everyday clinic.