[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: WNK1 and WNK4 are unusual serine/threonine kinases with atypical positioning of the catalytic active-site lysine (WNK: With-No-K[lysine]). Mutations in these WNK kinase genes can cause familial hyperkalemic hypertension (FHHt), an autosomal dominant, hypertensive, hyperkalemic disorder, implicating this novel WNK pathway in normal regulation of BP and electrolyte balance. Full-length (WNK1-L) and short (WNK1-S) kinase-deficient WNK1 isoforms previously have been identified. Importantly, WNK1-S is overwhelmingly predominant in kidney. Recent Xenopus oocyte studies implicate WNK4 in inhibition of both thiazide-sensitive co-transporter-mediated Na+ reabsorption and K+ secretion via renal outer medullary K+ channel and now suggest that WNK4 is inhibited by WNK1-L, itself inhibited by WNK1-S. This study examined WNK pathway gene expression in mouse kidney and its regulation in vivo. Expression of WNK1-S and WNK4 is strongest in distal tubule, dropping sharply in collecting duct and with WNK4 also expressed in thick ascending limb and the macula densa. These nephron segments that express WNK1-S and WNK4 mRNA have major influence on long-term NaCl reabsorption, BP, K+, and acid-base balance, processes that all are disrupted in FHHt. In vivo, this novel WNK pathway responds with significant upregulation of WNK1-S and WNK4 with high K+ intake and reduction in WNK1-S on chronic lowering of K+ or Na+ intake. A two-compartment distal nephron model explains these in vivo findings and the pathophysiology of FHHt well, with WNK and classic aldosterone pathways responding to drivers from K+ balance, extracellular volume, and aldosterone and cross-talk through distal Na+ delivery regulating electrolyte balance and BP.
Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 10/2006; 17(9):2402-13. DOI:10.1681/ASN.2005111197 · 9.34 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Abnormally elevated blood pressure is the most prevalent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The large-conductance, voltage- and Ca2+-dependent K+ (BK) channel has been proposed as an important effector in the control of vascular tone by linking membrane depolarization and local increases in cytosolic Ca2+ to hyperpolarizing K+ outward currents. However, the BK channel may also affect blood pressure by regulating salt and fluid homeostasis, particularly by adjusting the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system.
Here we report that deletion of the pore-forming BK channel alpha subunit leads to a significant blood pressure elevation resulting from hyperaldosteronism accompanied by decreased serum K+ levels as well as increased vascular tone in small arteries. In smooth muscle from small arteries, deletion of the BK channel leads to a depolarized membrane potential, a complete lack of membrane hyperpolarizing spontaneous K+ outward currents, and an attenuated cGMP vasorelaxation associated with a reduced suppression of Ca2+ transients by cGMP. The high level of BK channel expression observed in wild-type adrenal glomerulosa cells, together with unaltered serum renin activities and corticotropin levels in mutant mice, suggests that the hyperaldosteronism results from abnormal adrenal cortical function in BK(-/-) mice.
These results identify previously unknown roles of BK channels in blood pressure regulation and raise the possibility that BK channel dysfunction may underlie specific forms of hyperaldosteronism.