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J Biol Chem. 1999 Oct 15;274(42):30228-35.

At physiological expression levels the Kidd blood group/urea transporter protein is not a water channel.

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INSERM U76, Institut National de la Transfusion Sanguine, 6 rue Alexandre Cabanel, 75015 Paris, France.


The Kidd (JK) blood group locus encodes a urea transporter that is expressed on human red cells and on endothelial cells of the vasa recta in the kidney. Here, we report the identification in human erythroblasts of a novel cDNA, designated HUT11A, which encodes a protein identical to the previously reported erythroid HUT11 urea transporter, except for a Lys(44) --> Glu substitution and a Val-Gly dipeptide deletion after proline 227, which leads to a polypeptide of 389 residues versus 391 in HUT11. Genomic typing by polymerase chain reaction and transcript analysis by ribonuclease protection assay demonstrated that HUT11A encodes the true Kidd blood group/urea transporter protein, which carries only 2 Val-Gly motifs. Upon expression at high levels in Xenopus oocytes, the physiological Kidd/urea transporter HUT11A conferred a rapid transfer of urea (which was insensitive to p-chloromercuribenzene sulfonate or phloretin), a high water permeability, and a selective uptake of small solutes including amides and diols, but not glycerol and meso-erythritol. However, at plasma membrane expression levels close to the level observed in the red cell membrane, HUT11A-mediated water transport and small solutes uptake were absent and the urea transport was poorly inhibited by p-chloromercuribenzene sulfonate, but strongly inhibited by phloretin. These findings show that, at physiological expression levels, the HUT11A transporter confers urea permeability but not water permeability, and that the observed water permeability is a feature of the red cell urea transporter when expressed at unphysiological high levels.

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