Molecular Basis, Diagnostic Challenges and Therapeutic Approaches of Bartter and Gitelman Syndromes: A Primer for Clinicians

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Oct 22;22(21):11414. doi: 10.3390/ijms222111414.


Gitelman and Bartter syndromes are rare inherited diseases that belong to the category of renal tubulopathies. The genes associated with these pathologies encode electrolyte transport proteins located in the nephron, particularly in the Distal Convoluted Tubule and Ascending Loop of Henle. Therefore, both syndromes are characterized by alterations in the secretion and reabsorption processes that occur in these regions. Patients suffer from deficiencies in the concentration of electrolytes in the blood and urine, which leads to different systemic consequences related to these salt-wasting processes. The main clinical features of both syndromes are hypokalemia, hypochloremia, metabolic alkalosis, hyperreninemia and hyperaldosteronism. Despite having a different molecular etiology, Gitelman and Bartter syndromes share a relevant number of clinical symptoms, and they have similar therapeutic approaches. The main basis of their treatment consists of electrolytes supplements accompanied by dietary changes. Specifically for Bartter syndrome, the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs is also strongly supported. This review aims to address the latest diagnostic challenges and therapeutic approaches, as well as relevant recent research on the biology of the proteins involved in disease. Finally, we highlight several objectives to continue advancing in the characterization of both etiologies.

Keywords: Bartter syndrome; Gitelman syndrome; genetic diagnosis; genetics; hypercalciuria; hypokalemia; hypomagnesemia; hyponatremia; therapeutic targets.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bartter Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Bartter Syndrome / genetics
  • Bartter Syndrome / pathology*
  • Bartter Syndrome / therapy
  • Electrolytes / analysis
  • Electrolytes / therapeutic use
  • Gitelman Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Gitelman Syndrome / genetics
  • Gitelman Syndrome / pathology*
  • Gitelman Syndrome / therapy
  • Humans
  • Hyperaldosteronism / pathology
  • Hypercalciuria / pathology
  • Hypokalemia / pathology
  • Hyponatremia / pathology
  • Kidney Tubules, Distal / pathology*
  • Loop of Henle / pathology*
  • Nephrocalcinosis / pathology
  • Renal Tubular Transport, Inborn Errors / pathology
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance / physiology*


  • Electrolytes

Supplementary concepts

  • Hypomagnesemia primary