Primary aldosteronism, a condition in which too much aldosterone is produced and that leads to hypertension, is often initiated by an aldosterone-producing adenoma within the zona glomerulosa of the adrenal cortex. Somatic mutations of ATP1A1, encoding the Na/K pump α1 subunit, have been found in these adenomas. It has been proposed that a passive inward current transported by several of these mutant pumps is a "gain-of-function" activity that produces membrane depolarization and concomitant increases in aldosterone production. Here, we investigate whether the inward current through mutant Na/K pumps is large enough to induce depolarization of the cells that harbor them. We first investigate inward currents induced by these mutations in Xenopus Na/K pumps expressed in Xenopus oocytes and find that these inward currents are similar in amplitude to wild-type outward Na/K pump currents. Subsequently, we perform a detailed functional evaluation of the human Na/K pump mutants L104R, delF100-L104, V332G, and EETA963S expressed in Xenopus oocytes. By combining two-electrode voltage clamp with [3H]ouabain binding, we measure the turnover rate of these inward currents and compare it to the turnover rate for outward current through wild-type pumps. We find that the turnover rate of the inward current through two of these mutants (EETA963S and L104R) is too small to induce significant cell depolarization. Electrophysiological characterization of another hyperaldosteronism-inducing mutation, G99R, reveals the absence of inward currents under many different conditions, including in the presence of the regulator FXYD1 as well as with mammalian ionic concentrations and body temperatures. Instead, we observe robust outward currents, but with significantly reduced affinities for intracellular Na+ and extracellular K+ Collectively, our results point to loss-of-function as the common mechanism for the hyperaldosteronism induced by these Na/K pump mutants.
© 2017 Meyer et al.