Nephronophthisis (NPH) and medullary cystic kidney disease (MCKD) constitute a group of renal cystic diseases, which share a common characteristic renal histologic triad of tubular basement membrane disintegration, tubular atrophy with cyst development, and interstitial cell infiltration with fibrosis. The different disease variants lead to chronic renal failure with onset at characteristic age ranges for recessive NPH and dominant MCKD. There is extensive gene locus heterogeneity with at least three different loci for nephronophthisis (NPHP1, NPHP2, and NPHP3) and two different loci for MCKD (MCKD1 and MCKD2). Juvenile nephronophthisis, in addition, can be associated with extrarenal organ involvement. We have identified by positional cloning the gene (NPHP1) for juvenile nephronophthisis (NPH1), as a first step towards understanding the pathogenesis of this disease group. Its gene product, nephrocystin, is a novel protein, which contains a src-homology 3 (SH3) domain. We put forward a hypothesis that the pathogenesis of NPH might be related to signaling processes at focal adhesions (the contact points between cells and extracellular matrix) and/or adherens junctions (the contact points between cells).