The Wilms' tumour suppressor protein, WT1, plays a central role in the development of the genitourinary system and also other organs and tissues. WT1 can act as a transcriptional regulator or as an RNA processing factor in an isoform-dependent manner. The mechanisms that are used by WT1 to regulate transcription, and its associated target genes have been difficult to study, in part because the transcription function of WT1 is highly context-dependent. Recent studies have provided new insights into how WT1 achieves this specificity and have uncovered new target genes that are regulated by WT1 during development. In addition, ongoing studies of transgenic animals and analyses in kidney explant systems have revealed further roles for WT1 in development.