The relationship between renal salt handling and hypertension is intertwined historically. The discovery of WNK kinases (With No lysine = K) now offers new insight to this relationship because WNKs are a crucial molecular pathway connecting hormones such as angiotensin II and aldosterone to renal sodium and potassium transport. To fulfill this task, the WNKs also interact with other important kinases, including serum and glucocorticoid-regulated kinase 1, STE20/SPS1-related, proline alanine-rich kinase, and oxidative stress responsive protein type 1. Collectively, this kinase network regulates the activity of the major sodium and potassium transporters in the distal nephron, including thiazide-sensitive Na-Cl cotransporters and ROMK channels. Here we show how the WNKs modulate ion transport through two distinct regulatory pathways, trafficking and phosphorylation, and discuss the physiologic and clinical relevance of the WNKs in the kidney. This ranges from rare mutations in WNKs causing familial hyperkalemic hypertension to acquired forms of hypertension caused by salt sensitivity or diabetes mellitus. Although many questions remain unanswered, the WNKs hold promise for unraveling the link between salt and hypertension, potentially leading to more effective interventions to prevent cardiorenal damage.
ASJC Scopus subject areas