Recent studies have identified antisense WT1 mRNAs whose expression is regulated by a promoter located in the first intron of the WT1 gene. Transcription directed by the antisense promoter is positively autoregulated by the WT1 protein implicating the antisense RNA in the control of WT1 gene expression. To elucidate further the biological role of the antisense RNA in the developing kidney, its distribution of expression has been examined relative to WT1 sense mRNA and WT1 protein. Using strand-specific WT1 riboprobes, the expression of WT1 and the antisense message were examined by in situ hybridization in the developing human fetal kidney at different gestational ages. The expression of the antisense strand was strongest in the podocytes and glomeruli and also in the S-form nephrons and the condensing blastema in the developing kidney. Expression was also seen in the podocytes of the mature kidney. The WT1 protein and sense mRNA for WT1 also showed a similar pattern, suggesting that the antisense transcript does not function simply as a downregulator of protein production. Expression of antisense WT1 exon 1 in cells constitutively producing high levels of WT1 also demonstrated no downregulation of protein and in most cases actually showed upregulated WT1 protein expression. These results strongly suggest that WT1 antisense transcripts positively modulate WT1 protein levels in vivo.