Interstitial fibrosis, associated with extensive accumulation of extracellular matrix constituents in the cortical interstitium, is directly correlated to progression of renal disease. The earliest histological marker of this progression is the accumulation in the interstitium of fibroblasts with the phenotypic appearance of myofibroblasts. These myofibroblasts are contractile cells that express alpha smooth muscle actin and incorporate it into intracellular stress fibres. Although fibroblasts are histologically visible in normal kidneys, there are relatively few of them and proximal tubular epithelial cells predominate. In progressive disease, however, the interstitium becomes filled with myofibroblasts. In this review, we will examine the phenotype and function of fibroblasts and myofibroblasts in the cortical interstitium and the processes that may modulate them.