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Nat Rev Nephrol. 2015 Feb;11(2):113-23. doi: 10.1038/nrneph.2014.219. Epub 2014 Dec 9.

Urea transporter proteins as targets for small-molecule diuretics.

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Departments of Medicine and Physiology, University of California, 513 Parnassus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132, USA.


Conventional diuretics such as furosemide and thiazides target salt transporters in kidney tubules, but urea transporters (UTs) have emerged as alternative targets. UTs are a family of transmembrane channels expressed in a variety of mammalian tissues, in particular the kidney. UT knockout mice and humans with UT mutations exhibit reduced maximal urinary osmolality, demonstrating that UTs are necessary for the concentration of urine. Small-molecule screening has identified potent and selective inhibitors of UT-A, the UT protein expressed in renal tubule epithelial cells, and UT-B, the UT protein expressed in vasa recta endothelial cells. Data from UT knockout mice and from rodents administered UT inhibitors support the diuretic action of UT inhibition. The kidney-specific expression of UT-A1, together with high selectivity of the small-molecule inhibitors, means that off-target effects of such small-molecule drugs should be minimal. This Review summarizes the structure, expression and function of UTs, and looks at the evidence supporting the validity of UTs as targets for the development of salt-sparing diuretics with a unique mechanism of action. UT-targeted inhibitors may be useful alone or in combination with conventional diuretics for therapy of various oedemas and hyponatraemias, potentially including those refractory to treatment with current diuretics.

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