Osteopontin (OPN) is a secreted glycoprotein in both phosphorylated and non-phosphorylated forms. It contains an Arg-Gly-Asp cell-binding sequence and a thrombin-cleavage site. OPN is mainly present in the loop of Henle and distal nephrons in normal kidneys in animals and humans. After renal damage, OPN expression may be significantly up-regulated in all tubule segments and glomeruli. Studies utilizing OPN gene-deficient mice, antisense-treated or anti-OPN-treated animals have demonstrated that OPN promotes accumulation of macrophages, and may play a role in macrophage-mediated renal injury, but that the effect may be mild and short-lived. On the other hand, OPN has some renoprotective actions in renal injury, such as increasing tolerance to acute ischemia, inhibiting inducible nitric oxide synthase and suppressing nitric oxide synthesis, reducing cell peroxide levels and promoting the survival of cells exposed to hypoxia, decreasing cell apoptosis and participating in the regeneration of cells. In addition, OPN is associated with renal stones, but whether it acts as a promoter or inhibitor of stone formation is controversial. It has been demonstrated that OPN receptors include two families: integrin and CD44. The OPN integrin receptors include alpha(v)beta(3), alpha(v)beta(1), alpha(v)beta(5) and alpha(9)beta(1), and alpha(4)beta(1). In normal human kidneys, standard CD44 is expressed most dominantly. Different OPN functions are mediated via distinct receptors. Parathyroid hormone, vitamin D(3), calcium, phosphate and some cytokines increase OPN expression in vitro or in vivo, whereas female sex hormones and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor antagonists decrease OPN expression in some renal damage states.