Transient receptor potential vanilloid type 4 (TRPV4) is a calcium-permeable nonselective cation channel, originally described in 2000 by research teams led by Schultz (Nat Cell Biol 2: 695-702, 2000) and Liedtke (Cell 103: 525-535, 2000). TRPV4 is now recognized as being a polymodal ionotropic receptor that is activated by a disparate array of stimuli, ranging from hypotonicity to heat and acidic pH. Importantly, this ion channel is constitutively expressed and capable of spontaneous activity in the absence of agonist stimulation, which suggests that it serves important physiological functions, as does its widespread dissemination throughout the body and its capacity to interact with other proteins. Not surprisingly, therefore, it has emerged more recently that TRPV4 fulfills a great number of important physiological roles and that various disease states are attributable to the absence, or abnormal functioning, of this ion channel. Here, we review the known characteristics of this ion channel's structure, localization and function, including its activators, and examine its functional importance in health and disease.