Nuclear receptors are transcriptional regulators that play important roles in embryonic development and organogenesis. To study the potential roles of nuclear receptors in kidney development, we examined the expression patterns of a subset of nuclear receptors in which specific antibodies are available for profiling using immunohistochemistry. As a prototype for our analysis, we investigated the expression patterns of chicken ovalbumin upstream promoter transcription factor (COUP-TF) -I and -II in more details during embryonic development and in the adult by immunohistochemistry. We showed that COUP-TFI is expressed in the stroma and mesenchymal cells at embryonic d 11.5 (E11.5) and expression persists throughout embryonic development. In the adult kidney, only mesangial cells show meaningful COUP-TFI expression. In contrast, COUP-TFII expression is detected as early as E9.5 and high expression is seen in the mesenchymal-derived epithelial cells but not in the ureteric buds through E12.5. At E13.5, COUP-TFII expression becomes regionalized with higher expression in the region that gives rise to the distal tubule. The proximal part of the S-shaped body that will become the glomerulus after endothelial cell migration shows COUP-TFII expression in podocyte precursor cells and epithelial cells of the Bowman's capsule. In the adult mouse kidney, COUP-TFII is detected in distal tubules, podocytes, and the epithelial cells of the Bowman's capsule. In addition to COUP-TFs, we also examined the expression profiles of eight other nuclear receptors (farnesoid X receptor, vitamin D receptor, hepatocyte nuclear factor 4alpha, retinoid X receptor alpha, mineralocorticoid receptor, steroidogenic factor 1, liver receptor homolog-1, and germ cell nuclear factor). Our results suggest that these nuclear receptors are likely to play important physiological roles in the kidney development.