Expression of urea transporters in potassium-depleted mouse kidney

Ju Young Jung, Kirsten M. Madsen, Ki Hwan Han, Chul Woo Yang, Mark A. Knepper, Jeff M. Sands, Jin Kim

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51 Scopus citations


Urea transport in the kidney is mediated by a family of transporter proteins that include the renal urea transporter (UT-A) and the erythrocyte urea transporter (UT-B). The purpose of this study was to determine the location of the urea transporter isoforms in the mouse kidney and to examine the effects of prolonged potassium depletion on the expression and distribution of these transporters by ultrastructural immunocytochemistry. C57BL6 mice were fed a low-potassium diet for 2 wk, and control animals received normal chow. After 2 wk on a low-potassium diet, urinary volume increased and urinary osmolality decreased (833 ± 30 vs. 1,919 ± 174 mosmol/kgH 2O), as previously demonstrated. Kidneys were processed for immunocytochemistry with antibodies against UT-A1 (L446), UT-A1 and UT-A2 (L194), UT-A3 (Q2), and UT-B. In normal mice, UT-A1 and UT-A3 were expressed mainly in the cytoplasm of the terminal inner medullary collecting duct (IMCD). UT-A2 immunoreactivity was observed mainly on the basolateral membrane of the type 1 epithelium of the descending thin limb (DTL) of short-looped nephrons. The intensity of UT-A1 and UT-A3 immunoreactivity in the IMCD was markedly reduced in potassium-depleted mice. In contrast, there was a significant increase in UT-A2 immunoreactivity in the DTL. The intensity of UT-B immunoreactivity in the descending vasa recta (DVR) was reduced in potassium-depleted animals compared with controls. In control animals, UT-B immunoreactivity was predominantly observed in the plasma membrane, whereas in potassium-depleted mice, it was mainly observed in cytoplasmic granules in endothelial cells of the DVR. In summary, potassium depletion is associated with reduced expression of UT-A1, UT-A3, and UT-B but increased expression of UT-A2. We conclude that reduced expression of urea transporters may play a role in the impaired urine-concentrating ability associated with potassium deprivation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)F1210-F1224
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology
Issue number6 54-6
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Descending thin limb of loop of Henle
  • Immunogold labeling
  • Urine concentration


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