The superfamily of cyclic nucleotide (cN) phosphodiesterases (PDEs) is comprised of 11 families of enzymes. PDEs break down cAMP and/or cGMP and are major determinants of cellular cN levels and, consequently, the actions of cN-signaling pathways. PDEs exhibit a range of catalytic efficiencies for breakdown of cAMP and/or cGMP and are regulated by myriad processes including phosphorylation, cN binding to allosteric GAF domains, changes in expression levels, interaction with regulatory or anchoring proteins, and reversible translocation among subcellular compartments. Selective PDE inhibitors are currently in clinical use for treatment of erectile dysfunction, pulmonary hypertension, intermittent claudication, and chronic pulmonary obstructive disease; many new inhibitors are being developed for treatment of these and other maladies. Recently reported x-ray crystallographic structures have defined features that provide for specificity for cAMP or cGMP in PDE catalytic sites or their GAF domains, as well as mechanisms involved in catalysis, oligomerization, autoinhibition, and interactions with inhibitors. In addition, major advances have been made in understanding the physiological impact and the biochemical basis for selective localization and/or recruitment of specific PDE isoenzymes to particular subcellular compartments. The many recent advances in understanding PDE structures, functions, and physiological actions are discussed in this review.