TGF-β plays a key role in the development of renal fibrosis. Suppressing the TGF-β signaling pathway is a possible therapeutic approach for preventing this disease, and reports have suggested that Nrf2 protects against renal fibrosis by inhibiting TGF-β signaling. This study examines whether dimethylfumarate (DMF), which stimulates Nrf2, prevents renal fibrosis via the Nrf2-mediated suppression of TGF-β signaling. Results showed that DMF increased nuclear levels of Nrf2, and both DMF and adenovirus-mediated overexpression of Nrf2 (Ad-Nrf2) decreased PAI-1, alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), fibronectin and type 1 collagen expression in TGF-β-treated rat mesangial cells (RMCs) and renal fibroblast cells (NRK-49F). Additionally, DMF and Ad-Nrf2 repressed TGF-β-stimulated Smad3 activity by inhibiting Smad3 phosphorylation, which was restored by siRNA-mediated knockdown of Nrf2 expression. However, downregulation of the antioxidant response element (ARE)-driven Nrf2 target genes such as NQO1, HO-1 and glutathione S-transferase (GST) did not reverse the inhibitory effect of DMF on TGF-β-induced upregulation of profibrotic genes or extracellular matrix proteins, suggesting an ARE-independent anti-fibrotic activity of DMF. Finally, DMF suppressed unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO)-induced renal fibrosis and α-SMA, fibronectin and type 1 collagen expression in the obstructed kidneys from UUO mice, along with increased and decreased expression of Nrf2 and phospho-Smad3, respectively. In summary, DMF attenuated renal fibrosis via the Nrf2-mediated inhibition of TGF-β/Smad3 signaling in an ARE-independent manner, suggesting that DMF could be used to treat renal fibrosis.