Key components of complex physiological regulatory pathways can be uncovered through the molecular-genetic study of rare, inherited diseases. WNK kinases are a recently discovered class of serine-threonine kinases that are distinctive because of the substitution of cysteine for lysine in subdomain II of the catalytic domain. Mutations in PRKWNK1 and PRKWNK4, which encode WNK1 and WNK4, result in an inherited syndrome of hypertension and hyperkalemia. Recent physiological work has revealed that WNK4 alters the balance of NaCl reabsorption and K(+) secretion in the distal nephron by actions on both transcellular and paracellular ion-flux pathways. Additionally, WNK4 is expressed in extra-renal epithelia with prominent roles in Cl(-) handling, and it regulates transporters that are responsible for Cl(-) flux across apical and basolateral membranes. WNK kinases are components of a novel signaling pathway that is important for the control of blood pressure and electrolyte homeostasis.