Hexachloro-1:3-butadiene (HCBD) causes damage specifically to the renal proximal tubule in rats. In the present study, injury to the nephron of male Hanover Wistar rats was characterized at 24 h following dosing with HCBD in the range 5–90 mg kg−1 to determine the most sensitive biomarkers of damage, that is, the biomarkers demonstrating significant changes at the lowest dose of HCBD, using a range of measurements in serum and urine, renal histopathology, and renal and hepatic gene expression. Histologically, kidney degeneration was noted at doses as low as 10 mg kg−1 HCBD. Significant changes in the hepatic and renal gene expression categories of xenobiotic metabolism and oxidative stress were observed at 5 mg kg−1 HCBD, and in the kidney alone, evidence of inflammation at 90 mg kg−1 HCBD. Increases in the urinary excretion of α-glutathione S-transferase (α-GST) and kidney injury molecule-1 (KIM-1) were seen at 10 mg kg−1 HCBD, and increases in urinary excretion of albumin and total protein were evident at 15 mg kg−1 HCBD. The most sensitive, noninvasive biomarkers of HCBD-induced renal toxicity in Hanover Wistar rats were urinary α-GST and KIM-1. Urinary albumin measurement is also recommended as, although it is not the most sensitive biomarker, together with α-GST, albumin showed the largest relative increase of all the biomarkers investigated, and the protein is easily measured. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.