Oxygen radicals have roles in the renal ischemia-reperfusion (IR) injury usually encountered in several conditions such as renal transplantation. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of erdosteine and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) on the oxidant/antioxidant status and microscopy of renal tissues after IR injury. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly assigned to four groups: control untreated rats, IR (30 min ischemia and 120 min reperfusion), IR + NAC (i.p.; 180 mg/kg) and IR + erdosteine (oral; 50 mg/kg/day for 2 days before experiments) groups. After unilateral renal IR, the right kidney was rapidly excised and sectioned vertically into two pieces for microscopic examination and biochemical analysis. Erdosteine and NAC treatment did not cause any significant change in the activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD) in comparison with the IR group, even if the SOD activity increased in IR groups than in the control group. Catalase (CAT) activity was decreased in the IR group in comparison with control and IR + erdosteine groups (P < 0.05), whereas it was higher in the IR + erdosteine group than in the IR + NAC group (P < 0.05). Xanthine oxidase (XO) activity was higher in all the IR-performed groups than in the control group (P < 0.05). Thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARS) level and protein carbonyl (PC) content were increased after IR injury (P < 0.05). Erdosteine or NAC treatments ameliorated these increased TBARS and PC contents in comparison with the IR group (P < 0.05). Light microscopy of the IR group showed tubular dilatation, tubular necrosis and vacuole formation in epithelial cells. Erdosteine but not NAC apparently reduced the renal tissue damage. The pathological damage score after IR was significantly reduced after erdosteine treatment (P < 0.05), but not after NAC treatment. In conclusion, renal IR resulted in oxidative damage as seen in biochemical lipid peroxidation and protein oxidation results with aggravated tubular necrosis. Erdosteine and NAC treatments improved the biochemical results of IR injury. However, on microscopic evaulations, animals receiving erdosteine showed a great reduction in renal damage when compared with the NAC group.