Familial hypomagnesaemia with hypercalciuria and nephrocalcinosis (FHHNC) is an autosomal-recessive renal tubular disorder characterized by excessive urinary losses of magnesium and calcium, bilateral nephrocalcinosis and progressive chronic renal failure. Presentation with FHHNC symptoms generally occurs early in childhood or before adolescence. At present, the only therapeutic option is supportive and consists of oral magnesium supplementation and thiazide diuretics. However, neither treatment seems to have a significant effect on the levels of serum magnesium or urine calcium or on the decline of renal function. In end-stage renal disease patients, renal transplantation is the only effective approach. This rare disease is caused by mutations in the CLDN16 or CLDN19 genes. Patients with mutations in CLDN19 also present severe ocular abnormalities such as myopia, nystagmus and macular colobamata. CLDN16 and CLDN19 encode the tight-junction proteins claudin-16 and claudin-19, respectively, which are expressed in the thick ascending limb of Henle's loop and form an essential complex for the paracellular reabsorption of magnesium and calcium. Claudin-19 is also expressed in retinal epithelium and peripheral neurons. Research studies using mouse and cell models have generated significant advances on the understanding of the pathophysiology of FHHNC. A recent finding has established that another member of the claudin family, claudin-14, plays a key regulatory role in paracellular cation reabsorption by inhibiting the claudin-16–claudin-19 complex. Furthermore, several studies on the molecular and cellular consequences of disease-causing CLDN16 and CLDN19 mutations have provided critical information for the development of potential therapeutic strategies.