Major advances have recently been made in our understanding of the mechanisms and functions of amino acid transport in mammalian cells: - from the whole organism to transporter molecular structure. In this article, we present a brief overview of current knowledge concerning amino acid transporters, followed by a detailed discussion of the relevance of this new information to our broader understanding of the physiological regulation of amino acid handling in the kidney. We focus especially on the influence of hormones and xenobiotics on renal amino acid transport systems. In a growing number of cases, it now seems possible to correlate the effects of hormones, drugs, and xenobiotics with the capacity of renal amino acid transporters. This topic is of clinical relevance for the treatment of many amino acid reabsorption disorders. For example, under suitable conditions glucocorticoids and thyroid hormones stimulate renal reabsorption of amino acids and might therefore be of benefit in the treatment of different kinds of aminoaciduria. Hormonal regulation also underlies the postnatal development of renal amino acid reabsorption capacity, which can be stimulated to mature earlier after exogenous administration of e.g. glucocorticoids. In contrast, many compounds (e.g. heavy metal complexes) selectively damage renal amino acid transporters resulting in urinary amino acid loss. These types of phenomena (stimulation or inhibition of amino acid transporters in the kidney) are reviewed from the perspectives of our new molecular understanding of transport processes and of clinical relevance.