STE20 (Sterile 20)/SPS-1 related proline/alanine-rich kinase (SPAK) and oxidative stress-response kinase-1 (OSR1) phosphorylate and activate the renal Na+–K+–2Cl− cotransporter 2 (NKCC2) and Na+Cl− cotransporter (NCC). Mouse models suggest that OSR1 mainly activates NKCC2-mediated sodium transport along the thick ascending limb, while SPAK mainly activates NCC along the distal convoluted tubule, but the kinases may compensate for each other. We hypothesized that disruption of both kinases would lead to polyuria and severe salt-wasting, and generated SPAK/OSR1 double knockout mice to test this. Despite a lack of SPAK and OSR1, phosphorylated NKCC2 abundance was still high, suggesting the existence of an alternative activating kinase. Compensatory changes in SPAK/OSR1-independent phosphorylation sites on both NKCC2 and NCC and changes in sodium transport along the collecting duct were also observed. Potassium restriction revealed that SPAK and OSR1 play essential roles in the emerging model that NCC activation is central to sensing changes in plasma [K+]. STE20 (Sterile 20)/SPS-1 related proline/alanine-rich kinase (SPAK) and oxidative stress-response kinase-1 (OSR1) activate the renal cation cotransporters Na+–K+–2Cl− cotransporter (NKCC2) and Na+–Cl− cotransporter (NCC) via phosphorylation. Knockout mouse models suggest that OSR1 mainly activates NKCC2, while SPAK mainly activates NCC, with possible cross-compensation. We tested the hypothesis that disrupting both kinases causes severe polyuria and salt-wasting by generating SPAK/OSR1 double knockout (DKO) mice. DKO mice displayed lower systolic blood pressure compared with SPAK knockout (SPAK-KO) mice, but displayed no severe phenotype even after dietary salt restriction. Phosphorylation of NKCC2 at SPAK/OSR1-dependent sites was lower than in SPAK-KO mice, but still significantly greater than in wild type mice. In the renal medulla, there was significant phosphorylation of NKCC2 at SPAK/OSR1-dependent sites despite a complete absence of SPAK and OSR1, suggesting the existence of an alternative activating kinase. The distal convoluted tubule has been proposed to sense plasma [K+], with NCC activation serving as the primary effector pathway that modulates K+ secretion, by metering sodium delivery to the collecting duct. Abundance of phosphorylated NCC (pNCC) is dramatically lower in SPAK-KO mice than in wild type mice, and the additional disruption of OSR1 further reduced pNCC. SPAK-KO and kidney-specific OSR1 single knockout mice maintained plasma [K+] following dietary potassium restriction, but DKO mice developed severe hypokalaemia. Unlike mice lacking SPAK or OSR1 alone, DKO mice displayed an inability to phosphorylate NCC under these conditions. These data suggest that SPAK and OSR1 are essential components of the effector pathway that maintains plasma [K+].
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