Recent studies in both humans and experimental animals have led to renewed interest in uric acid and its association with hypertension, cardiovascular events and renal disease progression. This has also refuelled a longstanding debate regarding the precise role of this ubiquitous breakdown product of purine metabolism in these disease processes. Various lines of evidence suggest that uric acid may have a direct role in the pathogenesis of hypertension and vascular disease. Regardless of this possibility, it is apparent that serum uric acid levels serve as a powerful 'biomarker' or independent predictor of prognosis and outcome in certain renal, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. Whether these outcomes can be improved by specifically treating asymptomatic hyperuricaemia remains inadequately resolved at this stage. Data from various animal studies suggests that lowering uric acid levels may be of benefit, but the crucial human studies are still lacking. This review will examine some of the recent evidence supporting a causal and contributory role for uric acid in cardiovascular and renal disease. How clarification of the role of uric acid may guide future treatment strategies will also be discussed.