What is the role of signaling molecules in the regulation of sodium and potassium transport?

Updated: Apr 09, 2020
  • Author: Eleanor Lederer, MD, FASN; Chief Editor: Vecihi Batuman, MD, FASN  more...
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A family of signaling molecules, the WNK (with no K [lysine]) kinases, plays a critical role in the regulation of sodium and potassium transport in the distal nephron. [7] The WNK kinases are suspected of playing a role in the pathogenesis of several forms of hypertension. [4, 8]

WNK1 and WNK4 regulate the expression and function of the NaCl cotransporter and ROMK in the distal tubule. Increased WNK4 activity results in decreased NaCl cotransporter expression, permitting greater delivery of sodium to the cortical collecting tubule, thus facilitating potassium secretion.  Conversely, lesser WNK4 activity results in increased NaCl cotransporter expression, diminishing distal sodium delivery, thus limiting cortical collecting tubule potassium secretion. [9, 10]

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