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Clin Kidney J. 2012 Feb;5(Suppl 1):i15-i24. doi: 10.1093/ndtplus/sfr164.

Regulation of magnesium balance: lessons learned from human genetic disease.

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Department of Physiology, Nijmegen Centre for Molecular Life Sciences, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Magnesium (Mg(2+)) is the fourth most abundant cation in the body. Thus, magnesium homeostasis needs to be tightly regulated, and this is facilitated by intestinal absorption and renal excretion. Magnesium absorption is dependent on two concomitant pathways found in both in the intestine and the kidneys: passive paracellular transport via claudins facilitates bulk magnesium absorption, whereas active transcellular pathways mediate the fine-tuning of magnesium absorption. The identification of genes responsible for diseases associated with hypomagnesaemia resulted in the discovery of several magnesiotropic proteins. Claudins 16 and 19 form the tight junction pore necessary for mass magnesium transport. However, most of the causes of genetic hypomagnesaemia can be tracked down to transcellular magnesium transport in the distal convoluted tubule. Within the distal convoluted tubule, magnesium reabsorption is a tightly regulated process that determines the final urine magnesium concentration. Therefore, insufficient magnesium transport in the distal convoluted tubule owing to mutated magnesiotropic proteins inevitably leads to magnesium loss, which cannot be compensated for in downstream tubule segments. Better understanding of the molecular mechanism regulating magnesium reabsorption will give new opportunities for better therapies, perhaps including therapies for patients with chronic renal failure.


TRPM6; human genetic disease; hypomagnesaemia; magnesium homeostasis

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