Tracer kinetic methods employed for quantitative analysis of dynamic contrast-enhanced (DCE) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) share common roots with earlier tracer studies involving arterial-venous sampling and other dynamic imaging modalities. This article reviews the essential foundation concepts and principles in tracer kinetics that are relevant to DCE MRI, including the notions of impulse response and convolution, which are central to the analysis of DCE MRI data. We further examine the formulation and solutions of various compartmental models frequently used in the literature. Topics of recent interest in the processing of DCE MRI data, such as the account of water exchange and the use of reference tissue methods to obviate the measurement of an arterial input, are also discussed. Although the primary focus of this review is on the tracer models and methods for T1-weighted DCE MRI, some of these concepts and methods are also applicable for analysis of dynamic susceptibility contrast-enhanced MRI data. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2011;. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.