The sgk, an aldosterone-induced gene in mineralocorticoid target cells, regulates the epithelial sodium channel. Aldosterone increases sodium reabsorption in tight epithelia. The early phase of this stimulatory effect is thought to involve activation of apical sodium channels. To identify immediate-early genes that initiate this effect, we used a combination of polymerase chain reaction-based subtractive hybridization and differential display techniques. This review summarizes our recent findings. Aldosterone rapidly increases mRNA levels of a putative Ser/Thr kinase, sgk (or serum- and glucocorticoid-regulated kinase), in the native mineralocorticoid target cells, that is, in cortical collecting duct (CCD) cells. The induction of sgk mRNA occurs within 30 minutes of the addition of aldosterone and does not require de novo protein synthesis, indicating that sgk is an immediate/early aldosterone-induced gene. Induction of sgk by aldosterone is mediated through mineralocorticoid receptors (MRs), since it is prevented by ZK91857, an MR antagonist, but not by RU486, a glucocorticoid antagonist. In addition to aldosterone, RU28362, a pure glucocorticoid receptor agonist, also induced sgk mRNA, both in primary cultures of rabbit CCD cells and in the M-1 mouse CCD cell line. Sgk mRNA levels are also influenced by changes in the osmolality of the medium. In M-1 cells, incubation of cells for one hour in a mildly hypotonic medium decreased sgk mRNA levels, whereas incubation in hypertonic medium brought about opposite changes. To determine whether sgk is involved in the regulation of the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC), we coexpressed the full-length sgk cRNA in Xenopus oocytes with the three ENaC subunits. Expression of sgk resulted in a significant increase in the amiloride-sensitive Na current, suggesting that this protein kinase plays an important role in the early phase of aldosterone-stimulated Na transport. These results indicate that sgk is an aldosterone-induced immediate/early gene in native MR target cells, and is involved in the regulation of ion transport and possibly cell volume.