Published October 1, 1979 - More info
As a renal function declines in patients and experimental animals with chronic renal disease, potassium homeostasis is maintained by a progressive increase in potassium secretion by the surviving nephrons, a phenomenon known as potassium adaptation. To determine the nephron site and the underlying mechanisms responsible for this phenomenon, studies were performed on normal and 75% nephrectomized rabbits maintained on normal or high-potassium diets. Cortical collecting tubules (CCT) were dissected from the normal and remnant kidneys and perfused in vitro in an artificial solution. In normal CCT mean (+/- SE) net K secretion, JK, (peq/cm per s) was 1.26 +/- 0.43 (normal diet) and 3.27 +/- 0.66 (high-K diet). In uremic CCT, JK was 3.55 +/- 0.60 (normal diet) and 6.83 +/- 0.58 (high-K diet). By reducing the dietary intake of potassium in proportion to the reduction of renal mass in these uremic animals, the adaptation in K secretion was prevented (JK: 1.22 +/- 0.40). Transepithelial potential difference was similar in CCT from normal and uremic animals on a normal diet despite the fact that JK was significantly greater in the latter group. However, in both normal and uremic CCT, the increase in JK caused by potassium loading was associated with an increase in luminal negativity. Uremic CCT underwent significant compensatory hypertrophy regardless of the dietary intake or potassium secretory rates. Plasma aldosterone levels were elevated only in the uremic-high potassium rabbits suggesting that a mineralocorticoid effect on the CCT may be exaggerated when potassium loading is superimposed upon decreased excretory capacity. The activity of Na-K ATPase was comparable in normal and uremic CCT from rabbits on either normal or high-K diets indicating that potassium adaptation may occur independently of changes in the activity of this enzyme. Intracellular potassium content measured chemically and by 42K exchange, was not significantly altered in either normal or uremic CCT when dietary potassium intake was increased, despite the fact the JK was increased under these circumstances. These data indicate that the CCT is an important site of potassium adaptation in the surviving nephrons of animals with reduced renal mass. This adaptation is an intrinsic property of the CCT and is expressed in the absence of a uremic milieu. Potassium adaptation by the uremic CCT is not fixed according to the degree of compensatory hypertrophy but varies according to the excretory requirements of the animal. Transepithelial potential difference and circulating aldosterone levels contribute to the adaptation but neither factor can entirely account for the phenomenon. Potassium adaptation by the CCT occurs in the absence of changes in Na-K ATPase activity and intracellular potassium content.