Isozymes of the Na-K-ATPase: heterogeneity in structure, diversity in function

Am J Physiol. 1998 Nov;275(5):F633-50. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.1998.275.5.F633.


The Na-K-ATPase is characterized by a complex molecular heterogeneity that results from the expression and differential association of multiple isoforms of both its alpha- and beta-subunits. At present, as many as four different alpha-polypeptides (alpha1, alpha2, alpha3, and alpha4) and three distinct beta-isoforms (beta1, beta2, and beta3) have been identified in mammalian cells. The stringent constraints on the structure of the Na pump isozymes during evolution and their tissue-specific and developmental pattern of expression suggests that the different Na-K-ATPases have evolved distinct properties to respond to cellular requirements. This review focuses on the functional properties, regulation, and possible physiological relevance of the Na pump isozymes. The coexistence of multiple alpha- and beta-isoforms in most cells has hindered the understanding of the roles of the individual polypeptides. The use of heterologous expression systems has helped circumvent this problem. The kinetic characteristics of different Na-K-ATPase isozymes to the activating cations (Na+ and K+), the substrate ATP, and the inhibitors Ca2+ and ouabain demonstrate that each isoform has distinct properties. In addition, intracellular messengers differentially regulate the activity of the individual Na-K-ATPase isozymes. Thus the regulation of specific Na pump isozymes gives cells the ability to precisely coordinate Na-K-ATPase activity to their physiological requirements.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Ion Transport
  • Isoenzymes / chemistry*
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism*
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase / chemistry*
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase / metabolism*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Isoenzymes
  • Sodium-Potassium-Exchanging ATPase