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Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2012 May 1;302(9):F1069-81. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00646.2011. Epub 2012 Feb 15.

Basolateral membrane K+ channels in renal epithelial cells.

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Department of Physiology, Otago School of Medical Sciences, University of Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin, New Zealand.


The major function of epithelial tissues is to maintain proper ion, solute, and water homeostasis. The tubule of the renal nephron has an amazingly simple structure, lined by epithelial cells, yet the segments (i.e., proximal tubule vs. collecting duct) of the nephron have unique transport functions. The functional differences are because epithelial cells are polarized and thus possess different patterns (distributions) of membrane transport proteins in the apical and basolateral membranes of the cell. K(+) channels play critical roles in normal physiology. Over 90 different genes for K(+) channels have been identified in the human genome. Epithelial K(+) channels can be located within either or both the apical and basolateral membranes of the cell. One of the primary functions of basolateral K(+) channels is to recycle K(+) across the basolateral membrane for proper function of the Na(+)-K(+)-ATPase, among other functions. Mutations of these channels can cause significant disease. The focus of this review is to provide an overview of the basolateral K(+) channels of the nephron, providing potential physiological functions and pathophysiology of these channels, where appropriate. We have taken a "K(+) channel gene family" approach in presenting the representative basolateral K(+) channels of the nephron. The basolateral K(+) channels of the renal epithelia are represented by members of the KCNK, KCNJ, KCNQ, KCNE, and SLO gene families.

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