New insights into the pathogenesis of renal tubular acidosis--from functional to molecular studies

Pediatr Nephrol. 2000 Oct;14(12):1121-36. doi: 10.1007/s004670000407.


The diagnosis and classification of renal tubular acidosis (RTA) have traditionally been made on the basis of functional studies. On these grounds, RTA has been separated into three main categories: (1) proximal RTA, or type 2; (2) distal RTA, or type 1; and (3) hyperkalemic RTA, or type 4. In recent years significant advances have been made in our understanding of the subcellular mechanisms involved in renal bicarbonate (HCO3-) and H+ transport. Application of molecular biology techniques has also opened a completely new perspective to the understanding of the pathophysiology of inherited cases of RTA. Mutations in the gene SLC4A4, encoding Na+-HCO3- cotransporter (NBC-1), have been found in proximal RTA with ocular abnormalities; in the gene SLC4A1, encoding Cl(-)-HCO3- exchanger (AE1), in autosomal dominant distal RTA; in the gene ATP6B1, encoding B1 subunit of H+-ATPase, in autosomal recessive distal RTA with sensorineural deafness; and in the gene CA2, encoding carbonic anhydrase II, in autosomal recessive osteopetrosis. Syndromes of aldosterone resistance have been also characterized molecularly and mutations in the gene MLR, encoding mineralocorticoid receptor, and in the genes SNCC1A, SNCC1B, and SCNN1G, encoding subunits of the epithelial Na+ channel, have been found in dominant and recessive forms of pseudohypoaldosteronism type 1, respectively. It can be concluded that, although functional studies are still necessary, a new molecular era in the understanding of disorders of renal acidification has arrived.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acidosis, Renal Tubular / etiology*
  • Acidosis, Renal Tubular / genetics*
  • Acidosis, Renal Tubular / metabolism
  • Acids / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Carbonic Anhydrases / deficiency
  • Genes, Dominant
  • Genes, Recessive
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Pseudohypoaldosteronism / complications


  • Acids
  • Carbonic Anhydrases