The amiloride-sensitive epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) has previously been shown to be involved in the maintenance of body fluid volume and in Na(+) absorption across the skin and urinary bladder in amphibians. However, the function and distribution of ENaC have not been clearly described in amphibian kidney. We therefore cloned the ENaC alpha-subunit cDNA from kidney of the marine toad, Bufo marinus. The ENaC mRNA and protein were abundantly expressed in the kidney and in the urinary bladder and ventral pelvic skin. In an immunohistochemical study, the ENaC alpha-subunit protein was specifically localized to the apical membrane of the principal cells but not the intercalated cells from the late distal tubule to the collecting duct in the kidney or in the apical area of cells of urinary bladder epithelia. When toads were acclimated to dry and hyper-saline environments, the levels of ENaC mRNA expression in the kidney and urinary bladder decreased under hyper-saline acclimation, but not under dry conditions. Immunohistochemical observations indicated that the levels of ENaC protein expression were much lower in the apical area of renal distal tubules and urinary bladder epithelia of hyper-saline acclimated toad compared with controls. The present study suggests that Bufo ENaC is significantly expressed and functions during Na(+) reabsorption in the apical membrane domain in the distal nephron of normal and desiccated toads. Natriuresis may be caused by decreases in ENaC expression and its trafficking to the cell surface in the distal nephron, a response to prevent excessive Na(+) reabsorption in hyper-saline-acclimated toads.