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Pharmacol Ther. 2005 May;106(2):221-31. Epub 2005 Jan 26.

WNK kinases and the control of blood pressure.

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Clinical Pharmacology Unit, Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.


The WNK kinases are a small group of serine/threonine kinases with unique catalytic domains that lack the lysine residue used in other kinases to co-ordinate ATP (hence, With No K [WNK]). Their closest homologues are found within the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway suggesting a role in signalling. Two WNK isoforms, WNK1 and WNK4, have been identified as the disease genes for a rare monogenic hypertension syndrome (Gordon's syndrome or pseudohypoaldosteronism type 2 [PHA2]) implicating them in salt homeostasis by the kidney. This is supported by recent data showing widespread expression of WNK1 and WNK4 in mammalian transporting epithelia. Within the kidney, WNKs probably regulate the surface expression of several proteins involved in ion transport, including the sodium-chloride cotransporter (NCCT) and the potassium channel renal outer medullary potassium channel (ROMK), based on co-expression studies in Xenopus oocytes. WNKs, especially WNK4, have been suggested as candidate genes for essential hypertension itself, but evidence for this is lacking. Some of the effects of the WNKs are independent of their kinase function, suggesting that they are dependent on specific protein-protein interactions. It seems likely that the WNKs are part of much larger protein scaffolds in cells and have effects in cells beyond ion transport. However, because of their effect on expression of the NCCT they are attractive drug targets for the development of novel antihypertensive agents. These agents could potentially offer the efficacy of a thiazide diuretic, but without the metabolic side effects usually seen with this class of antihypertensive therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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