Regulation of microvessel assembly in the developing kidney is not known and may occur through vasculogenic, angiogenic, or both processes. To examine this question, we grafted rat and mice embryonic (E) day 12 (E12) kidneys, which have only a rudimentary vasculature, into anterior eye chambers of mouse and rat hosts. Species-specific, monoclonal anti-basement membrane antibodies showed that glomerular basement membranes, mesangial matrices, and microvessel basement membranes were always derived from the graft. When wild-type E12 mouse kidneys were grafted into anterior chambers of ROSA26 mice, in which the beta-galactosidase transgene is expressed ubiquitously, glomerular and microvascular endothelial cells stemmed from the graft, even after maintenance of kidneys in organ culture for 6 days before grafting. Immunolabeling with antibodies against the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor, Flk1, the EphB1 receptor, and its ligand, ephrin-B1, labeled discrete mesenchymal cells in embryonic and newborn kidney cortex, as well as developing microvessel and glomerular endothelium. In adult kidneys, Flk1 labeled glomeruli weakly, other vascular structures were unlabeled. When wild-type E12 kidneys were grafted under renal capsules of adult ROSA26 hosts, endothelium developing within the graft again came from the implanted kidney. In contrast, when E12 kidneys were grafted into renal cortices of newborns, glomeruli within grafts now contained host-derived endothelium. Similarly, when ROSA26 E12 kidneys were implanted into newborn wild-type hosts, chimeric vessels containing graft- and host-derived endothelium were seen in nearby host tissue. Our results indicate that cells capable of forming the entire microvascular tree of grafted metanephroi are already present in the E12 kidney. We hypothesize that Flk1/VEGF and EphB1/ephrin-B1 mediate renal endothelial mitosis-motility and cell guidance-aggregation behavior, respectively.