Targeted disruption of the Wnk4 gene decreases phosphorylation of Na-Cl cotransporter, increases Na excretion and lowers blood pressure.
We recently generated Wnk4(D561A/+) knockin mice and found that a major pathogenesis of pseudohypoaldosteronism type II was the activation of the OSR1/SPAK kinase-NaCl cotransporter (NCC) phosphorylation cascade by the mutant WNK4. However, the physiological roles of wild-type WNK4 on the regulation of Na excretion and blood pressure, and whether wild-type WNK4 functions positively or negatively in this cascade, remained to be determined. In the present study, we generated WNK4 hypomorphic mice by deleting exon 7 of the Wnk4 gene. These mice did not show hypokalemia and metabolic alkalosis, but they did exhibit low blood pressure and increased Na and K excretion under low-salt diet. Phosphorylation of OSR1/SPAK and NCC was significantly reduced in the mutant mice as compared with their wild-type littermates. Protein levels of ROMK and Maxi K were not changed, but epithelial Na channel appeared to be activated as a compensatory mechanism for the reduced NCC function. Thus, wild-type WNK4 is a positive regulator for the WNK-OSR1/SPAK-NCC cascade, and WNK4 is a potential target of anti-hypertensive drugs.