Reversible phosphorylation by protein kinases is probably one of the most important examples of post-translational modification of ion transport proteins. Ste20-related proline alanine-rich kinase (SPAK) and oxidative stress response kinase (OSR1) are two serine/threonine kinases belonging to the germinal centre-like kinase subfamily VI. Genetic analysis suggests that OSR1 evolved first, with SPAK arising following a gene duplication in vertebrate evolution. SPAK and OSR1 are two recently discovered kinases which have been linked to several key cellular processes, including cell differentiation, cell transformation and proliferation, cytoskeleton rearrangement, and most recently, regulation of ion transporters. Na–K–2Cl cotransporter activity is regulated by phosphorylation. Pharmacological evidence has identified several kinases and phosphatases which alter cotransporter function, however, no direct linkage between these enzymes and the cotransporter has been demonstrated. This article will review some of the physical and physiological properties of SPAK and OSR1, and present new evidence of a direct interaction between the Na–K–Cl cotransporter and the stress kinases.