Human cell survival requires function of the Na+/K+ pump; the heteromeric protein that hydrolyzes ATP to extrude Na+ and import K+ across the plasmalemma, thereby building and maintaining these ions' electrochemical gradients. Numerous dominant diseases caused by mutations in genes encoding for Na+/K+ pump catalytic (α) subunit isoforms highlight the importance of this protein. Here, we review literature describing disorders caused by missense mutations in ATP1A1, the gene encoding the ubiquitously expressed α1 isoform of the Na+/K+ pump. These various maladies include primary aldosteronism with secondary hypertension, an endocrine syndrome, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a peripheral neuropathy, complex spastic paraplegia, another neuromuscular disorder, as well as hypomagnesemia accompanied by seizures and cognitive delay, a condition affecting the renal and central nervous systems. This article focuses on observed commonalities among these mutations' functional effects, as well as on the special characteristics that enable each particular mutation to exclusively affect a certain system, without affecting others. In this respect, it is clear how somatic mutations localized to adrenal adenomas increase aldosterone production without compromising other systems. However, it remains largely unknown how and why some but not all de novo germline or familial mutations (where the mutant must be expressed in numerous tissues) produce a specific disease and not the other diseases. We propose hypotheses to explain this observation and the approaches that we think will drive future research on these debilitating disorders to develop novel patient-specific treatments by combining the use of heterologous protein-expression systems, patient-derived pluripotent cells, and gene-edited cell and mouse models.
Keywords: Na, K-ATPase; active transport; dominant-negative; gain-of-function mutation; haploinsufficiency.