Aldosterone controls sodium reabsorption and potassium secretion in the aldosterone-sensitive distal nephron (ASDN). Although clearance measurements have shown that aldosterone induces these transports within 30--60 min, no early effects have been demonstrated in vivo at the level of the apical epithelial sodium channel (ENaC), the main effector of this regulation. Here we show by real-time RT-PCR and immunofluorescence that an aldosterone injection in adrenalectomized rats induces alpha-ENaC subunit expression along the entire ASDN within 2 h, whereas beta- and gamma-ENaC are constitutively expressed. In the proximal ASDN portions only, ENaC is shifted toward the apical cellular pole and the apical plasma membrane within 2 and 4 h, respectively. To address the question of whether the early aldosterone-induced serum and glucocorticoid-regulated kinase (SGK) might mediate this apical shift of ENaC, we analyzed SGK induction in vivo. Two hours after aldosterone, SGK was highly induced in all segment-specific cells of the ASDN, and its level decreased thereafter. In Xenopus laevis oocytes, SGK induced ENaC activation and surface expression by a kinase activity-dependent mechanism. In conclusion, the rapid in vivo accumulation of SGK and alpha-ENaC after aldosterone injection takes place along the entire ASDN, whereas the translocation of alpha,beta,gamma-ENaC to the apical plasma membrane is restricted to its proximal portions. Results from oocyte experiments suggest the hypothesis that a localized activation of SGK may play a role in the mediation of ENaC translocation.