Activation of the Na+-K+-2Cl-- cotransporter (NKCC2) and the Na+-Cl--cotransporter (NCC) by vasopressin includes their phosphorylation at defined, conservedN-terminal threonine and serine residues, but the kinase pathways thatmediate this action of vasopressin are not well understood. Two homologous Ste20- like kinases, SPS-related proline/alanine-rich kinase (SPAK) and oxidative stress responsive kinase (OSR1), can phosphorylate the cotransporters directly. In this process, a full-length SPAK variant and OSR1 interact with a truncated SPAK variant, which has inhibitory effects. Here, we tested whether SPAK is an essential component of the vasopressin stimulatory pathway. We administered desmopressin, a V2 receptor- specific agonist, to wild-type mice, SPAK-deficient mice, and vasopressin-deficient rats. Desmopressin induced regulatory changes in SPAK variants, but not in OSR1 to the same degree, and activated NKCC2 and NCC. Furthermore, desmopressin modulated both the full-length and truncated SPAK variants to interact with and phosphorylate NKCC2, whereas only full-length SPAK promoted the activation of NCC. In summary, these results suggest that SPAK mediates the effect of vasopressin on sodium reabsorption along the distal nephron.
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