Send to

Choose Destination
Am J Physiol. 1989 Nov;257(5 Pt 2):R989-97.

Renal potassium transport: morphological and functional adaptations.

Author information

Department of Physiology, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, New Hampshire 03756.


Maintenance of K+ homeostasis in mammals and amphibians depends primarily on the kidneys which excrete 95% of K+ ingested in the diet. The amount of K+ in the urine is determined by the rate of K+ secretion or absorption by the distal tubule and the collecting duct. When K+ intake is increased, K+ secretion rises. The mechanisms of K+ secretion by the distal tubule and collecting duct are so efficient that K+ intake can increase 20-fold with little or no increase in body K+ content or in plasma K+ concentration. Elevated K+ secretion by the distal tubule and collecting duct occurs in part because of an increase in the quantity of Na+-K+-adenosinetriphosphatase (Na+-K+-ATPase) and amplification of the basolateral membrane of principal cells. When dietary K+ intake is reduced, urinary K+ excretion falls, because K+ secretory mechanisms are suppressed and K+ absorptive mechanisms, residing in the distal tubule and collecting duct, are activated. Because a low-K+ diet is associated with hypertrophy of intercalated cells, it has been suggested that this cell type absorbs K+, possibly by an H+-K+-ATPase. In this review, I discuss the functional and morphological evidence that supports the view that principal cells secrete K+ and that intercalated cells absorb K+. In addition, some of the hormones and factors that are responsible for these changes in cell structure and function are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon
Loading ...
Support Center