The purpose of this review is to illustrate the application of molecular methodologies to the investigation of a fundamentally integrative problem in renal physiology, namely, the mechanism of regulation of water excretion by the kidney and the concomitant concentration of solutes in the urine. A new revolution in renal physiology is occurring as new research tools have become available as a result of the cloning of cDNAs for many of the major transporters and receptors in the renal medulla. Among the important renal medullary transporters are the aquaporin water channels, which mediate the osmotic water transport across renal medullary epithelia. One of these water channels, aquaporin-2, has been shown to be the target for short-term regulation of collecting duct water permeability by vasopressin. In addition, two collecting duct water channels, aquaporin-2 and aquaporin-3, are targets for long-term regulation by vasopressin through effects on the absolute expression levels of the water channel proteins. This review focuses on the mechanisms of both short- and long-term regulation of these water channels by vasopressin.