The lung possesses specific transport systems that intra- and extracellularly maintain salt and fluid balance necessary for its function. At birth, the lungs rapidly transform into a fluid (Na(+))-absorbing organ to enable efficient gas exchange. Alveolar fluid clearance, which mainly depends on sodium transport in alveolar epithelial cells, is an important mechanism by which excess water in the alveoli is reabsorbed during the resolution of pulmonary edema. In this review, we will focus and summarize on the role of ENaC in alveolar lung liquid clearance and discuss recent data from mouse models with altered activity of epithelial sodium channel function in the lung, and more specifically in alveolar fluid clearance. Recent data studying mice with hyperactivity of ENaC or mice with reduced ENaC activity clearly illustrate the impaired lung fluid clearance in these adult mice. Further understanding of the physiological role of ENaC and its regulatory proteins implicated in salt and water balance in the alveolar cells may therefore help to develop new therapeutic strategies to improve gas exchange in pulmonary edema.
2010 S. Karger AG, Basel