The kidney plays an essential role during excretion of metabolic waste products, maintenance of key homeostasis components such as ion concentrations and hormone levels. It influences the blood pressure, composition and volume. The kidney tubule system is composed of two distinct cell populations: the nephrons forming the filtering units and the collecting duct system derived from the ureteric bud. Nephrons are composed of glomeruli that filter the blood to the Bowman's capsule and tubular structures that reabsorb and concentrate primary urine. The collecting duct is a Wolffian duct-derived epithelial tube that concentrates and collects urine and transfers it via the renal pelvis into the bladder. The mammalian kidney function depends on the coordinated development of specific cell types within a precise architectural framework. Due to the availability of modern analysis techniques, the kidney has become a model organ defining the paradigm to study organogenesis. As kidney diseases are a problem worldwide, the understanding of mammalian kidney cells is of crucial importance to develop diagnostic tools and novel therapies. This review focuses on how the pattern of renal development is generated, how the inductive signals are regulated and what are their effects on proliferation, differentiation and morphogenesis.