Amiloride blocks lithium entry through the sodium channel thereby attenuating the resultant nephrogenic diabetes insipidus

Kidney Int. 2009 Jul;76(1):44-53. doi: 10.1038/ki.2009.91. Epub 2009 Apr 15.


Lithium therapy frequently induces nephrogenic diabetes insipidus; amiloride appears to prevent its occurrence in some clinical cases. Amiloride blocks the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) located in the apical membrane of principal cells; hence one possibility is that ENaC is the main entry site for lithium and the beneficial effect of amiloride may be through inhibiting lithium entry. Using a mouse collecting duct cell line, we found that vasopressin caused an increase in Aquaporin 2 (AQP2) expression which was reduced by clinically relevant lithium concentrations similar to what is seen with in vivo models of this disease. Further amiloride or benzamil administration prevented this lithium-induced downregulation of AQP2. Amiloride reduced transcellular lithium transport, intracellular lithium concentration, and lithium-induced inactivation of glycogen synthase kinase 3beta. Treatment of rats with lithium downregulated AQP2 expression, reduced the principal-to-intercalated cell ratio, and caused polyuria, while simultaneous administration of amiloride attenuated all these changes. These results show that ENaC is the major entry site for lithium in principal cells both in vitro and in vivo. Blocking lithium entry with amiloride attenuates lithium-induced diabetes insipidus, thus providing a rationale for its use in treating this disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amiloride / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Aquaporin 2 / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Diabetes Insipidus, Nephrogenic / metabolism*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Inhibitory Concentration 50
  • Kidney Tubules, Collecting / metabolism
  • Lithium / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sodium Channel Blockers / pharmacology*
  • Sodium Channels / genetics
  • Sodium Channels / metabolism*


  • Aquaporin 2
  • Sodium Channel Blockers
  • Sodium Channels
  • Amiloride
  • Lithium