Apelin is a vasoactive peptide identified as the endogenous ligand of an orphan G protein-coupled receptor called APJ. Apelin and its receptor have been found in the brain and the cardiovascular system. Here we show that the apelin receptor mRNA is highly expressed in the glomeruli while its level of expression is lower in all nephron segments including collecting ducts that express vasopressin V2 receptors. Intravenous injection of apelin 17 into lactating rats induced a significant diuresis. Apelin receptor mRNA was also found in endothelial and vascular smooth muscle cells of glomerular arterioles. Apelin administration caused vasorelaxation of angiotensin II-preconstricted efferent and afferent arterioles as shown by an increase in their diameter. Activation of endothelial apelin receptors caused release of nitric oxide which inhibited angiotensin II-induced rise in intracellular calcium. In addition, it appears that apelin had a direct receptor-mediated vasoconstrictive effect on vascular smooth muscle. These results show that apelin has complex effects on the pre- and post glomerular microvasculature regulating renal hemodynamics. Its role on tubular function (if any) remains to be determined.