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On the mechanism of renal potassium wasting in renal tubular acidosis associated with the Fanconi syndrome (type 2 RTA)

Anthony Sebastian, Elisabeth McSherry and R. Curtis Morris, Jr.

Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, California 94122Department of Pediatrics, University of California, San Francisco, California 94122

Published January 1971

The mechanism of renal potassium wasting in renal tubular acidosis associated with the Fanconi syndrome (type 2 RTA) was investigated in 10 patients, each of whom had impaired proximal renal tubular reabsorption of bicarbonate as judged from a greater than 15-20% reduction of renal tubular bicarbonate reabsorption (THCO3-) at normal plasma bicarbonate concentrations. When the plasma bicarbonate concentration ([HCO3-]p) was experimentally increased to normal levels in three patients with a fractional potassium excretion (CK/Cin) of less than 1.0 during acidosis, CK/Cin and urinary potassium excretion (UKV/Cin) increased strikingly and concurrently with a striking increase in urinary sodium (UNaV/Cin) and bicarbonate (UHCO3-V/Cin) excretion. When [HCO3-]p was increased to normal levels in two patients with a CK/Cin of greater than 1.0 during acidosis and in whom UNaV/Cin and UHCO3-V/Cin were already markedly increased, CK/Cin did not increase further. When [HCO3-]p was decreased to subnormal levels in a patient given ammonium chloride, UKV/Cin, CK/Cin, and UHCO3-V/Cin decreased concurrently. In the six patients in whom [HCO3-]p was maintained at normal levels (oral alkali therapy) for 2 months or longer, CK/Cin was directly related to the urinary excretion rates of sodium and bicarbonate, hence was directly related to the magnitude of reduction of THCO3- at normal [HCO3-]p; CK/Cin was greater than 0.55 in all six patients and greater than 1.0 in four.

In eight patients with classic RTA (type 1 RTA), proximal renal tubular reabsorption of bicarbonate was largely intact as judged from a trivial reduction of THCO3- at normal [HCO3-]p. When [HCO3-]p was either increased from subnormal to normal levels, or decreased from normal to subnormal levels, UHCO3-V/Cin remained essentially constant, and UKV/Cin did not change significantly. When correction of acidosis was sustained, UHCO3-V/Cin remained a trivial fraction of that filtered, and CK/Cin was consistently less than 0.55.

These results provide evidence that renal potassium wasting in type 2 RTA is physiologically separable from that in type 1 RTA and in part the result of a reduction in the rate at which the proximal tubule reabsorbs bicarbonate and the distal delivery of supernormal amounts of sodium bicarbonate. With an increased stimulus to distal sodium reabsorption, indicated by the finding of hyperaldosteronism, delivery to the distal nephron of supernormal amounts of sodium with the relatively impermeant bicarbonate anion would be expected to increase intraluminal negativity in the distal nephron, and as a consequence, increase potassium secretion and promote renal potassium wasting.

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