Purinoceptors are rapidly becoming recognised as important regulators of tissue and organ function. Renal expression of P2 receptors is broad and diverse, as reflected by the fact that P2 receptors have been identified in virtually every major tubular/vascular element. While P2 receptor expression by these renal structures is recognised, the physiological functions that they serve remains to be clarified. Renal vascular P2 receptor expression is complex and poorly understood. Evidence suggests that different complements of P2 receptors are expressed by individual renal vascular segments. This unique distribution has given rise to the postulate that P2 receptors are important for renal vascular function, including regulation of preglomerular resistance and autoregulatory behaviour. More recent studies have also uncovered evidence that hypertension reduces renal vascular reactivity to P2 receptor stimulation in concert with compromised autoregulatory capability. This review will consolidate findings related to the role of P2 receptors in regulating renal microvascular function and will present areas of controversy related to the respective roles of ATP and adenosine in autoregulatory resistance adjustments. © 2009 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.