Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is a common genetic disease of the kidney, characterized by cystic enlargement of renal tubules, aberrant epithelial proliferation, and ion and fluid secretion into the lumen. Previous studies have shown abnormalities in polarization of membrane proteins, including mislocalization of the NaK-ATPase to the apical plasma membranes of cystic epithelia. Apically located NaK-ATPase has previously been shown to be fully functional in vivo and in membrane-grown ADPKD epithelial cells in vitro, where basal-to-apical (22)Na transport was inhibited by application of ouabain to the apical membrane compartment. Studies were conducted with polymerase chain reaction-generated specific riboprobes and polyclonal peptide antibodies against human sequences of alpha1, alpha3, beta1, and beta2 subunits of NaK-ATPase. High levels of expression of alpha1 and beta1 messenger RNA were detected in ADPKD and age-matched normal adult kidneys in vivo, whereas beta2 messenger RNA was detected only in ADPKD kidneys. Western blot analysis and immunocytochemical studies showed that, in normal adult kidneys, peptide subunit-specific antibodies against alpha1 and beta1 localized to the basolateral membranes of normal renal tubules, predominantly thick ascending limbs of Henle's loop. In ADPKD kidneys, alpha1 and beta2 subunits were localized to the apical epithelial cell membranes, whereas beta1 was distributed throughout the cytoplasm and predominantly in the endoplasmic reticulum, but was not seen associated with cystic epithelial cell membranes or in cell membrane fractions. Polarizing, renal-derived epithelial Madin Darby canine kidney cells, stably expressing normal or N-terminally truncated chicken beta1 subunits, showed selective accumulation in the basolateral Madin Darby canine kidney cell surface, whereas c-myc epitope-tagged chicken beta2 or human beta2 subunits accumulated selectively in the apical cell surface. Similarly, human ADPKD epithelial cell lines, which endogenously expressed alpha1 and beta2 NaK-ATPase subunits, showed colocalization at the apical cell surface and coassociation by immunoprecipitation analysis. These results are consistent with a model in which the additional transcription and translation of the beta2 subunit of NaK-ATPase may result in the apical mislocalization of NaK-ATPase in ADPKD cystic epithelia.