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The inducible second isoform of cyclooxygenase (COX-2) that mediates inflammation also is expressed at low levels in normal adult rat kidneys and is upregulated in response to noninflammatory stimuli (R. C. Harris, J. A. McKanna, Y. Akai, H. R. Jacobson, R. N. DuBois, and M. D. Breyer, J. Clin. Invest. 94: 2504-2510, 1994). Roles in morphogenesis are indicated by reported teratogenicity of COX inhibitors and renal dysgenesis in COX-2 knockout mice (J. E. Dinchuk, B. D. Car, R. J. Focht, J. J. Johnston, B. D. Jaffee, M. B. Covington, N. R. Contel, V. M. Eng, R. J. Collins, P. M. Czerniak, A. G. Stewart, and J. M. Trzaskos, Nature 378: 406-409, 1995; S. G. Morham, R. Lagenbach, C. D. Loftin, H. F. Tiano, N. Vouloumanos, J. C. Jennette, J. F. Mahler, K. D. Kluckman, A. Ledford, C. A. Lee, and O. Smithies. Cell 83: 473-482, 1995). Blots from developing rat kidneys demonstrated that COX-2 mRNA and immunoreactive protein were present in neonates, peaked in the 2nd and 3rd postnatal weeks and declined to adult levels by the 3rd month. Immunolocalization and in situ hybridization detected intense COX-2 immunoreactivity and mRNA in a subset of thick ascending limb epithelial cells near the macula densa in each developing nephron; after 2 wk the COX-2 gradually waned. These data demonstrate that COX-2 expression is subject to normal developmental regulation and can be sustained over extended periods; they also support the conclusion that metabolites of COX-2 play important roles in the differentiation and early functions of mammalian nephrons.