Renal cell carcinoma is an important clinical disease with poorly understood etiology. ELF5 is an epithelial-specific member of the Ets family of transcription factors, characterized by the 80 amino acid Ets domain that binds the purine-rich GGAA/T Ets motif found in the promoter regions of a variety of genes. Since ELF5 is highly expressed in kidney and has been postulated to function as a tumor suppressor, at least in the context of the breast, we investigated its role in kidney cancer. In renal cell carcinoma ELF5 expression was consistently decreased in tumor samples versus normal. ELF5 mRNA was decreased in 94% of lesions tested and ELF5 protein was undetectable in 40/40 kidney-derived carcinomas. Re-expression of the ELF5 gene in 786-O renal carcinoma cells suppressed their tumorigenic capacity in vitro and in vivo. This work is the first to suggest that ELF5 has tumor suppressor activity in the kidney.