Kinase regulation of Na+-K+-2Cl- cotransport in primary afferent neurons.


The Na(+)-K(+)-2Cl(-) cotransporter NKCC1 is expressed in sensory neurons where it accumulates intracellular Cl(-) and facilitates primary afferent depolarization. Depolarization of primary afferent fibre terminals interferes with the gating of incoming sensory signals to the spinal cord. The cotransporter belongs to a family of ion transporters which are sensitive to changes in cell volume. Cell shrinkage, through mechanisms that are still unknown, leads to the phosphorylation and activation of NKCC1. Similarly, axotomy results in increased NKCC1 phosphorylation in dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. This review summarizes the work on the kinases that directly mediate NKCC1 activation. These are the sterile-20-like kinases SPAK and OSR1. Upon their activation through phosphorylation by upstream kinases, SPAK and OSR1 bind to specific peptides located in the cytosolic N-terminal tail of NKCC1, phosphorylate, and stimulate cotransport activity. Expression of SPAK and OSR1 varies from tissue to tissue, but in DRG neurons and in spinal cord, SPAK and OSR1 expression levels are similar. In DRG neurons, both kinases participate in the modulation of NKCC1, as the knockdown of one kinase only results in a partial decrease of NKCC1 function, while the knockdown of both kinases is additive. The identity of the kinases (e.g. WNK kinases) that possibly act upstream of SPAK and OSR1 is also discussed.