1. The transport of negatively charged drugs, xenobiotics, and metabolites by epithelial tissues, particularly the kidney, plays critical roles in controlling their distribution, concentration, and retention in the body. Thus, organic anion transporters (OATs) impact both their therapeutic efficacy and potential toxicity. 2. This review summarizes current knowledge of the properties and functional roles of the cloned OATs, the relationships between transporter structure and function, and those factors that determine the efficacy of transport. Such factors include plasma protein binding of substrates, genetic polymorphisms among the transporters, and regulation of transporter expression. 3. Clearly, much progress has been made in the decade since the first OAT was cloned. However, unresolved questions remain. Several of these issues--drug-drug interactions, functional characterization of newly cloned OATs, tissue differences in expression and function, and details of the nature and consequences of transporter regulation at genomic and intracellular sites--are discussed in the concluding Perspectives section.