The cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) is a cyclic adenosine monophosphate dependent, low-conductance chloride channel found on the apical plasma membrane of secretory epithelia. Surprisingly, since cystic fibrosis patients have no kidney phenotype, CFTR is highly expressed in the kidney, present from 12 weeks of gestation in the human metanephric kidney. As well as the mature, full-length, 165-kD wild-type protein (WT-CFTR) associated with renal tubule plasma membranes, intracellular, partially glycosylated forms are also seen in normal kidneys. In addition, a kidney-specific splice variant of CFTR translates a cytoplasmic truncated protein (TNR-CFTR), apparently associated with a specific small endosomal population, and is predominantly expressed in the renal medulla. WT-CFTR and TNR-CFTR show different patterns of developmental regulation, WT-CFTR being the major form expressed early in metanephric development when it is localized at the apical plasma membrane of developing collecting tubules. By contrast, TNR-CFTR expression increases with gestational age, reaching adult levels at 23 weeks. Evidence suggests that WT-CFTR plays a role in chloride secretion into the apical lumen of normal distal tubules. In autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, normally targeted CFTR at the apical plasma membrane in association with mislocalized Na-K-ATPase may result in abnormal fluid secretion into cysts. Similar colocalization of WT-CFTR and Na-K-ATPase at the apical plasma membranes is found in collecting tubules during development when it is speculated to play a role in the initiation of opening of the tubule lumen.