Acid-base transport by the renal proximal tubule

J Nephrol. Nov-Dec 2010;23 Suppl 16(0 16):S4-18.


Each day, the kidneys filter 180 L of blood plasma, equating to some 4,300 mmol of the major blood buffer, bicarbonate (HCO3-). The glomerular filtrate enters the lumen of the proximal tubule (PT), and the majority of filtered HCO3- is reclaimed along the early (S1) and convoluted (S2) portions of the PT in a manner coupled to the secretion of H+ into the lumen. The PT also uses the secreted H+ to titrate non-HCO3- buffers in the lumen, in the process creating "new HCO3-" for transport into the blood. Thus, the PT - along with more distal renal segments - is largely responsible for regulating plasma [HCO3-]. In this review we first focus on the milestone discoveries over the past 50+ years that define the mechanism and regulation of acid-base transport by the proximal tubule. Further on in the review, we will summarize research still in progress from our laboratory, work that addresses the problem of how the PT is able to finely adapt to acid-base disturbances by rapidly sensing changes in basolateral levels of HCO3- and CO2 (but not pH), and thereby to exert tight control over the acid-base composition of the blood plasma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acid-Base Equilibrium / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Bicarbonates / metabolism
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism
  • ErbB Receptors / physiology
  • Humans
  • Ion Transport
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / metabolism*
  • Receptor, Angiotensin, Type 1 / physiology
  • Receptor-Like Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases, Class 5 / physiology
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchanger 3
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchangers / physiology


  • Bicarbonates
  • Receptor, Angiotensin, Type 1
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchanger 3
  • Sodium-Hydrogen Exchangers
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Receptor-Like Protein Tyrosine Phosphatases, Class 5