Cyclooxygenase-derived prostanoids exert complex and diverse functions within the kidney. The biological effect of each prostanoid is controlled at multiple levels, including (a) enzymatic reactions catalyzed sequentially by cyclooxygenase and prostanoid synthase for the synthesis of bioactive prostanoid and (b) the interaction with its receptors that mediate its functions. Cyclooxygenase-derived prostanoids act in an autocrine or a paracrine fashion and can serve as physiological buffers, protecting the kidney from excessive functional changes during physiological stress. Through these actions, prostanoids play important roles in maintaining renal function, body fluid homeostasis, and blood pressure. Renal cortical COX2-derived prostanoids, particularly PGI2 and PGE2, play critical roles in maintaining blood pressure and renal function in volume-contracted states. Renal medullary COX2-derived prostanoids appear to have an antihypertensive effect in individuals challenged with a high-salt diet. Loss of EP2 or IP receptor is associated with salt-sensitive hypertension. COX2 also plays a role in maintaining renal medullary interstitial cell viability in the hypertonic environment of the medulla. Cyclooxygenase-derived prostanoids also are involved in certain pathological processes. The cortical COX2-derived PGI2 participates in the pathogenesis of renal vascular hypertension through stimulating renal renin synthesis and release. COX-derived prostanoids also appear to be involved in the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy. COXs, prostanoid synthases, and prostanoid receptors should provide fruitful targets for intervention in the pharmacological treatment of renal disease.