The urinary collecting duct system of the permanent kidney develops by growth and branching of an initially unbranched epithelial tubule, the ureteric bud. Formation of the ureteric bud as an outgrowth of the wolffian duct is induced by signalling molecules (such as GDNF) that emanate from the adjacent metanephrogenic mesenchyme. Once it has invaded the mesenchyme, growth and branching of the bud is controlled by a variety of molecules, such as the growth factors GDNF, HGF, TGFbeta, activin, BMP-2, BMP-7, and matrix molecules such as heparan sulphate proteoglycans and laminins. These various influences are integrated by signal transduction systems inside ureteric bud cells, with the MAP kinase, protein kinase A and protein kinase C pathways appearing to play major roles. The mechanisms of morphogenetic change that produce branching remain largely obscure, but matrix metalloproteinases are known to be necessary for the process, and there is preliminary evidence for the involvement of the actin/myosin contractile cytoskeleton in creating branch points.