Despite a wealth of information on structural proteins, comparatively little is known on the transcriptional regulation of podocyte structure and function. In this review we will highlight those transcription factors which, by gene inactivation or classical transgenic experiments, have been shown to be essential for podocytes or probably will turn out to be so. The tumor suppressor protein WT1 is not only indispensable for the initial stages of kidney development, but also very likely maintains the integrity of the fully differentiated podocyte. In the kidney, the LIM homeodomain transcription factor LMX1B is specifically synthesized in podocytes, and mutations in LMX1B lead to nail-patella syndrome and the associated nephropathy. Other transcription factors such as hypoxia-inducible factors and PAX2 are likely to play a role in podocytes, whereas the significance of others, e.g. of POD1 and CITED2, is more speculative at this point.