WNK3 is a putative chloride-sensing kinase

Cell Physiol Biochem. 2011;28(6):1123-34. doi: 10.1159/000335848. Epub 2011 Dec 16.


The with-no-lysine kinase 3 (WNK3) is a serine/threonine kinase that modulates the activity of the electroneutral cation-coupled chloride cotransporters (CCC). Using the Xenopus laevis oocyte heterologous expression system, it has been shown that WNK3 activates the Na(+)-coupled chloride cotransporters NKCC1, NKCC2, and NCC and inhibits the K(+)-coupled chloride cotransporters KCC1 through KCC4. Interestingly, the effect of catalytically inactive WNK3 is opposite to that of wild type WNK3: inactive WNK3 inhibits NKCCs and activates KCCs. In doing so, wild type and catalytically inactive WNK3 bypass the tonicity requirement for activation/inhibition of the cotransporter. Thus, WNK3 modulation of the electroneutral cotransporters promotes Cl(-) influx and prevents Cl(-) efflux, thus fitting the profile for a putative "Cl(-)-sensing kinase". Other kinases that potentially have these properties are the Ste20-type kinases, SPAK/OSR1, which become phosphorylated in response to reductions in intracellular chloride concentration and regulate the activity of NKCC1. It has been demonstrated that WNKs lie upstream of SPAK/OSR1 and that the activity of these kinases is activated by phosphorylation of threonines in the T-loop by WNKs. It is possible that a protein phosphatase is also involved in the WNK3 effects on its associated cotransporters because activation of KCCs and inhibition of NKCCs by inactive WNK3 can be prevented by known inhibitors of protein phosphatases, such as calyculin A and cyclosporine, suggesting that a protein phosphatase is also involved in the protein complex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Size
  • Chlorides / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases / metabolism
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / physiology
  • Sodium-Potassium-Chloride Symporters / metabolism


  • Chlorides
  • Sodium-Potassium-Chloride Symporters
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • WNK3 protein, human
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases