With-no-lysine (WNK) kinases are highly expressed along the mammalian distal nephron. Mutations in either WNK1 or WNK4 cause familial hyperkalemic hypertension (FHHt), suggesting that the protein products converge on a final common pathway. We showed previously that WNK4 downregulates thiazide-sensitive NaCl cotransporter (NCC) activity, an effect suppressed by WNK1. Here we investigated the mechanisms by which WNK1 and WNK4 interact to regulate ion transport. We report that WNK1 suppresses the WNK4 effect on NCC activity and associates with WNK4 in a protein complex involving the kinase domains. Although a kinase-dead WNK1 also associates with WNK4, it fails to suppress WNK4-mediated NCC inhibition; the WNK1 kinase domain alone, however, is not sufficient to block the WNK4 effect. The carboxyterminal 222 amino acids of WNK4 are sufficient to inhibit NCC, but this fragment is not blocked by WNK1. Instead, WNK1 inhibition requires an intact WNK4 kinase domain, the region that binds to WNK1. In summary, these data show that: (a) the WNK4 carboxyl terminus mediates NCC suppression, (b) the WNK1 kinase domain interacts with the WNK4 kinase domain, and (c) WNK1 inhibition of WNK4 is dependent on WNK1 catalytic activity and an intact WNK1 protein. These findings provide insight into the complex interrelationships between WNK1 and WNK4 and provide a molecular basis for FHHt.


Chao-Ling Yang, Xiaoman Zhu, Zhaohong Wang, Arohan R. Subramanya, David H. Ellison


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