Regulation of Renal Electrolyte Transport by WNK and SPAK-OSR1 Kinases

Annu Rev Physiol. 2016;78:367-89. doi: 10.1146/annurev-physiol-021115-105431.


The discovery of four genes responsible for pseudohypoaldosteronism type II, or familial hyperkalemic hypertension, which features arterial hypertension with hyperkalemia and metabolic acidosis, unmasked a complex multiprotein system that regulates electrolyte transport in the distal nephron. Two of these genes encode the serine-threonine kinases WNK1 and WNK4. The other two genes [kelch-like 3 (KLHL3) and cullin 3 (CUL3)] form a RING-type E3-ubiquitin ligase complex that modulates WNK1 and WNK4 abundance. WNKs regulate the activity of the Na(+):Cl(-) cotransporter (NCC), the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC), the renal outer medullary potassium channel (ROMK), and other transport pathways. Interestingly, the modulation of NCC occurs via the phosphorylation by WNKs of other serine-threonine kinases known as SPAK-OSR1. In contrast, the process of regulating the channels is independent of SPAK-OSR1. We present a review of the remarkable advances in this area in the past 10 years.

Keywords: ENaC; NCC; ROMK; SLC12; diuretics; hypertension; salt transport.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electrolytes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / metabolism
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Ion Transport / physiology*
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Kidney / physiology*
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism*
  • Pseudohypoaldosteronism / metabolism
  • Pseudohypoaldosteronism / physiopathology


  • Electrolytes
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases