Developmental engineering is a potential option for neo-organogenesis of complex organs such as the kidney. The application of this principle requires the ability to construct a tubular structure from dispersed renal progenitor cells with defined size and geometry. In this present study we report the generation of tubular structures from dispersed ureteric bud cells in vitro by using a micropatterned gel. Dispersed CMUB-1 cells, a mouse ureteric bud-derived cell line, or mIMCD cells, a mouse collecting duct-derived cell line, were suspended in collagen I and seeded into an agarose-based micropatterned gel. We found that within 24-36h of incubation, the cells developed a tubular structure that conformed to the geometry of the micropattern of the gel. The lumen formation of the tubular structure was confirmed by immunohistochemical staining and observed by confocal microscopy. We found that higher concentrations of collagen I negatively influenced the efficiency of tubular formation. Tubule formation in CMUB-1, but not mIMCD, cells was positively influenced by the addition of aldosterone (10, 50 and 200μg/ml), FGF (50 and 100μg/ml) and fibronectin (10 and 50μg/ml) to the growth medium. We further demonstrated the functionality of the generated tubes by in vitro budding, which was induced by growth factors, such as glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) or fibroblast growth factor 7 (FGF7), in the presence of beads soaked with the activin A inhibitor follistatin. Our current study thus demonstrates the possibility of constructing a functional tubular structure from dispersed ureteric bud cells in vitro in a controlled manner. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.