Many transport functions in renal tubules depend on potassium (K) channels. Not only does K secretion and the maintenance of external K balance depend on K channel activity in principal tubule cells, but K channels also regulate cell volume; they are an integral party of cell function in all tubule cells because of their key role in the generation of the cell-negative electrical potential that affects the transmembrane movement of many charged solutes. Moreover, the recycling of K across the apical membrane of the thick ascending limb (TAL) plays an important role in the control of NaCl reabsorption in this tubule segment. Significant progress in our understanding of the structure and function of renal K channels has become possible by combining several strategies. These include transport studies in single tubules, application of the patch-clamp technique for exploring the properties of single K channels in native tubules and the cloning, and expression of diverse K channels of renal origin. Insights from these investigations promise to provide a deeper understanding of the mechanism by which K channels participate in many diverse tubule functions.