Several xenobiotic (organic cation and anion) transporters have recently been identified, although their endogenous substrates, if such exist, remain unknown. When we initially identified NKT, also known as OAT1, the first member of the organic anion transporter (OAT) family (Lopez-Nieto CE, You G, Bush KT, Barros EJ, Beier DR, and Nigam SK. J Biol Chem 272: 6471-6478, 1997), we noted its expression in the embryonic kidney. We have now demonstrated its transporter function and more fully examined the spatiotemporal expression patterns of representative organic ion transporters, [NKT (OAT1), Roct, OCT1, and NLT, also known as OAT2] during murine development. In the kidney, NKT (OAT1), OCT1, and Roct transcripts appeared at midgestation, coinciding with proximal tubule differentiation, and gradually increased during nephron maturation. A similar pattern was observed for NLT (OAT2) in the liver and kidney, although, in the kidney, NLT (OAT2) transcription did not increase as dramatically. The roughly cotemporal expression of these related transporters in the developing proximal tubule may indicate common transcriptional regulation. Expression during embryogenesis in extrarenal sites could suggest a role in the formation and maintenance of nonrenal tissues. Importantly, all four genes were expressed in unexpected places during nonrenal organogenesis: Roct in the fetal liver (temporally coinciding with the onset of hematopoiesis) and neural tissue; NKT (OAT1) in the fetal brain; OCT1 in the ascending aorta and atrium; and NLT (OAT2) in the fetal lung, intestine, skin, and developing bone. Because these gene products mediate the transport of a broad range of metabolites and toxins, it seems likely that, apart from their known functions, these transporters play a role in transport of organic molecules, perhaps including those with morphogenetic activity. These genes could also play important developmental roles independent of transport function.