Advances in the molecular biology of retinoids have provided evidence that vitamin A profoundly influences the differentiation of the whole embryo. In addition to its well-characterized role in primary body axis and central nervous system formation, vitamin A is also required for the ad hoc development of numerous tissues and organs, including the kidney. This review will focus on the emerging evidence that the development of the urogenital tract depends on retinoids. In order to understand the role of vitamin A during kidney development, the mechanisms and sites of retinoic acid production are presented. In addition, an overview of the molecular targets that may be regulated by retinoic acid is included. Together, these elements support the concept that control of vitamin A homeostasis during renal organogenesis might control nephrogenesis via specific gene expression. The clinical impact of variations in vitamin A status during pregnancy is discussed.