SPAK isoforms and OSR1 regulate sodium-chloride co-transporters in a nephron-specific manner.


STE20/SPS-1-related proline-alanine-rich protein kinase (SPAK) and oxidative stress-related kinase (OSR1) activate the potassium-dependent sodium-chloride co-transporter, NKCC2, and thiazide-sensitive sodium-chloride cotransporter, NCC, in vitro, and both co-localize with a kinase regulatory molecule, Cab39/MO25α, at the apical membrane of the thick ascending limb (TAL) and distal convoluted tubule (DCT). Yet genetic ablation of SPAK in mice causes a selective loss of NCC function, whereas NKCC2 becomes hyperphosphorylated. Here, we explore the underlying mechanisms in wild-type and SPAK-null mice. Unlike in the DCT, OSR1 remains at the TAL apical membrane of KO mice where it is accompanied by an increase in the active, phosphorylated form of AMP-activated kinase. We found an alterative SPAK isoform (putative SPAK2 form), which modestly inhibits co-transporter activity in vitro, is more abundant in the medulla than the cortex. Thus, enhanced NKCC2 phosphorylation in the SPAK knock-out may be explained by removal of inhibitory SPAK2, sustained activity of OSR1, and activation of other kinases. By contrast, the OSR1/SPAK/M025α signaling apparatus is disrupted in the DCT. OSR1 becomes largely inactive and displaced from M025α and NCC at the apical membrane, and redistributes to dense punctate structures, containing WNK1, within the cytoplasm. These changes are paralleled by a decrease in NCC phosphorylation and a decrease in the mass of the distal convoluted tubule, exclusive to DCT1. As a result of the dependent nature of OSR1 on SPAK in the DCT, NCC is unable to be activated. Consequently, SPAK(-/-) mice are highly sensitive to dietary salt restriction, displaying prolonged negative sodium balance and hypotension.