We previously reported that hypertonicity-mediated upregulation of the gamma-subunit of Na-K-ATPase is dependent on both the JNK and the PI3 kinase pathways. The present experiments were undertaken to explore the mechanisms whereby these pathways regulate the expression of the gamma-subunit in inner medullary collecting duct cells (IMCD3). Inhibition of JNK with SP-600125 (20 muM), a concentration that causes an approximately 95% inhibition of hypertonicity-stimulated JNK activation, markedly decreased the amount of the gamma-subunit in response to 550 mosmol/kgH(2)O for 48 h. This was accompanied by a parallel decrease in the gamma-subunit mRNA. The rate at which the gamma-subunit mRNA decreased was unaffected by actinomycin D. In contrast, inhibition of PI3 kinase with LY-294002 results in a marked decrease in the amount of gamma-subunit protein but without alteration in gamma-subunit message. The rate at which the gamma-subunit protein decreased was unaffected by cyclohexamide. Transfection of IMCD3 cells with a gamma-subunit construct results in the expression of both gamma-subunit message and protein. However, in cortical collecting duct cells (M1 cells) such transfection resulted in expression of only the message and not the protein. We conclude that JNK regulates the gamma-subunit at the transcriptional level while PI3 kinase regulates gamma-subunit expression at the translational level. There is also posttranscriptional cell specificity in the expression of the gamma -subunit of Na-K-ATPase.