Two structurally unrelated ligands activate the macrophage colony stimulating factor receptor (CSF-1R, c-fms, CD115): M-CSF/CSF-1 and interleukin-34 (IL-34). Both ligands promote macrophage proliferation, survival and differentiation. IL-34 also activates the protein-tyrosine phosphatase ζ receptor (PTP-ζ, PTPRZ1). Both receptors and cytokines are increased during acute kidney injury. While tubular cell-derived CSF-1 is required for kidney repair, Baek et al. (J Clin Invest 2015; 125: 3198–3214) have now identified tubular epithelial cell-derived IL-34 as a promoter of kidney neutrophil and macrophage infiltration and tubular cell destruction during experimental kidney ischaemia-reperfusion, leading to chronic injury. IL-34 promoted proliferation of both intrarenal macrophages and bone marrow cells, increasing circulating neutrophils and monocytes and their kidney recruitment. Thus, injured tubular cells release two CSF-1R activators, one (CSF-1) that promotes tubular cell survival and kidney repair and another (IL-34) that promotes chronic kidney damage. These results hold promise for the development of IL-34-targeting strategies to prevent ischaemia-reperfusion kidney injury in contexts such as kidney transplantation. However, careful consideration should be given to the recent characterization by Bezie et al. (J Clin Invest 2015; 125: 3952–3964) of IL-34 as a T regulatory cell (Treg) cytokine that modulates macrophage responses so that IL-34-primed macrophages potentiate the immune suppressive capacity of Tregs and promote graft tolerance.