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In the kidney nitric oxide (NO) has numerous important functions including the regulation of renal haemodynamics, maintenance of medullary perfusion, mediation of pressure-natriuresis, blunting of tubuloglomerular feedback, inhibition of tubular sodium reabsorption and modulation of renal sympathetic neural activity. The net effect of NO in the kidney is to promote natriuresis and diuresis. Significantly, deficient renal NO synthesis has been implicated in the pathogenesis of hypertension. All three isoforms of nitric oxide synthase (NOS), namely neuronal NOS (nNOS or NOS1), inducible NOS (iNOS or NOS2) and endothelial NOS (eNOS or NOS3) are reported to contribute to NO synthesis in the kidney. The regulation of NO synthesis in the kidney by NOSs is complex and incompletely understood. Historically, many studies of NOS regulation in the kidney have emphasized the role of variations in gene transcription and translation. It is increasingly appreciated, however, that the constitutive NOS isoforms (nNOS and eNOS) are also subject to rapid regulation by post-translational mechanisms such as Ca(2+) flux, serine/threonine phosphorylation and protein-protein interactions. Recent studies have emphasized the role of post-translational regulation of nNOS and eNOS in the regulation of NO synthesis in the kidney. In particular, a role for phosphorylation of nNOS and eNOS at both activating and inhibitory sites is emerging in the regulation of NO synthesis in the kidney. This review summarizes the roles of NO in renal physiology and discusses recent advances in the regulation of eNOS and nNOS in the kidney by post-translational mechanisms such as serine/threonine phosphorylation.