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Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2006 Jul;291(1):F148-54. Epub 2006 Feb 14.

Gamble's "economy of water" revisited: studies in urea transporter knockout mice.

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Laboratory of Kidney and Electrolyte Metabolism, National Hearth, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA, and Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, UK.


The Gamble phenomenon (initially described over 70 years ago as "an economy of water in renal function referable to urea") suggested that urea plays a special role in the urinary concentrating mechanism and that the concentrating mechanism depends in some complex way on an interaction between NaCl and urea. In this study, the role of collecting duct urea transporters in the Gamble phenomenon was investigated in wild-type mice and mice in which the inner medulla collecting duct (IMCD) facilitative urea transporters, UT-A1 and UT-A3, had been deleted (UT-A1/3-/- mice). The general features of the Gamble phenomenon were confirmed in wild-type mice, namely 1) the water requirement for the excretion of urea is less than for the excretion of an osmotically equivalent amount of NaCl; and 2) when fed various mixtures of urea and salt in the diet, less water is required for the excretion of the two substances together than the amount of water needed for the excretion of the two substances separately. In UT-A1/3-/- mice both of these elements of the phenomenon were absent, indicating that IMCD urea transporters play a central role in the Gamble phenomenon. A titration study in which wild-type mice were given progressively increasing amounts of urea showed that the ability of the kidney to reabsorb urea was saturable, resulting in osmotic diuresis above excretion rates of approximately 6,000 microosmol/day. In the same titration experiments, when increasing amounts of NaCl were added to the diet, mice were unable to increase urinary NaCl concentrations to >420 mM, resulting in osmotic diuresis at NaCl excretion rates of approximately 3,500 microosmol/day. Thus both urea and NaCl can induce osmotic diuresis when large amounts are given, supporting the conclusion that the decrease in water excretion with mixtures of urea and NaCl added to the diet (compared with pure NaCl or urea) is due to the separate abilities of urea and NaCl to induce osmotic diuresis, rather than to any specific interaction of urea transport and NaCl transport at an epithelial level.

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