Cr(VI) causes severe kidney damage. The patient's renal function could gradually recover by spontaneous kidney regeneration. The molecular effect of Cr(VI) on recovery of kidney cells, however, has not been clearly elucidated. Here we show that Cr(VI) induces expression of mesenchymal and stem cell markers, cell markers, such as paxillin, vimentin, α-SMA, nanog, and CD133 of HK-2 cells. Moreover, Cr(VI) activates epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). By revealing that levels of dihydrodiol dehydrogenase were promptly reduced following Cr(VI) challenge, our data suggested that DDH could be involved in a Cr(VI)-related oxidation to generate massive reactive oxygen species and H2O2, and to create intracellular hypoxia, which then increased levels of SUMO-1 activating enzyme subunit 2, and sumoylation of eukaryotic elongation factor-2, to mediate the subsequent molecular and cellular responses, e.g., expression of mesenchymal and stem cell markers. Pretreatment with vitamin C reduced Cr(VI)-related cellular effects. However, no evident effect was observed when vitamin C was added following Cr(VI) challenge. © 2015 The Authors. Molecular Carcinogenesis published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.