Purpose of review: This review will summarize newly described novel functions of renal intercalated cells.
Recent findings: Over the past 20 years, the importance of intercalated cells in the process of renal net acid excretion has been recognized. More recently, many of the molecular mechanisms responsible for this cellular function have been described. Functionally, type A and type B intercalated cells are largely mirror images in that type A intercalated cells are H secreting cells, whereas type B intercalated cells are OH secreting cells. Whether non-A, non-B intercalated cells represent H or OH secreting cells or whether they interconvert between these functions is unclear. Transporters such as pendrin (Slc26a4, Pds), AE1 (Slc4a1), the H-ATPase, and NBC3 (Slc4a7) contribute to the ability of intercalated cells to secrete H or OH equivalents. In addition to mediating secretion of H or OH equivalents, however, intercalated cells also regulate vascular volume, and hence blood pressure, likely by regulating renal Cl excretion.
Summary: The molecular mechanisms of net H/OH secretion by intercalated cell subsets have been largely defined over the past decade. Moreover, targeted genetic disruption of these transporters has revealed novel roles, such as blood pressure regulation. Thus, some of these transporters might be the target of future antihypertensive drugs.