This study aimed to determine the protective effect and mechanism of neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) in rat kidney on ischemia/reperfusion injury (I/R). The rat I/R model was set up by cutting one kidney and clamping the contralateral renal pedicle for 45 min. Male SD rats were randomly divided into sham-operation, I/R and NGAL groups. Hematoxylin-eosin staining was performed to observe the renal pathological changes in the 3 groups; serum creatinine (Scr) and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) determined in blood samples taken from the inferior vena cava 24 h after the reperfusion were measured; TUNEL was used to observe the apoptosis of renal tubular epithelial cells; immunohistochemistry was performed to evaluate the expressions of Bax and activated caspase-3; Western blotting was used to determine the expression changes in apoptotic proteins Fas and Bcl-2. Compared with the I/R group, Scr and BUN of the NGAL group were 63.400 ± 11.908 vs 121.857 ± 17.151 μM and 14.840 ± 2.868 vs 28.557 ± 6.434 mM, respectively.