The vertebrate kidney has an inherent ability to regenerate following acute damage. Successful regeneration of the injured kidney requires the rapid replacement of damaged tubular epithelial cells and reconstitution of normal tubular function. Identifying the cells that participate in the regeneration process as well as the molecular mechanisms involved may reveal therapeutic targets for the treatment of kidney disease. Renal regeneration is associated with the expression of genetic pathways that are necessary for kidney organogenesis, suggesting that the regenerating tubular epithelium may be "reprogrammed" to a less-differentiated, progenitor state. This review will highlight data from various vertebrate models supporting the hypothesis that nephrogenic genes are reactivated as part of the process of kidney regeneration following acute kidney injury (AKI). Emphasis will be placed on the reactivation of developmental pathways and how our understanding of the resulting regeneration process may be enhanced by lessons learned in the embryonic kidney.