Role of [small gamma, Greek]ENaC Subunit in Lung Liquid Clearance and Electrolyte Balance in Newborn Mice: Insights into Perinatal Adaptation and Pseudohypoaldosteronism

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Abstract

Genetic evidence supports a critical role for the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) in both clearance of fetal lung liquid at birth and total body electrolyte homeostasis.Evidence from heterologous expression systems suggests that expression of the [small alpha, Greek]ENaC subunit is essential for channel function, whereas residual channel function can be measured in the absence of [small beta, Greek] or [small gamma, Greek] subunits. We generated mice without [small gamma, Greek]ENaC ([small gamma, Greek]ENaC -/-) to test the role of this subunit in neonatal lung liquid clearance and total body electrolyte balance. Relative to controls, [small gamma, Greek]ENaC (-/-) pups showed low urinary [K+] and high urinary [Na+] and died between 24 and 36 h, probably from hyperkalemia ([small gamma, Greek]ENaC -/- 18.3 mEq/l, control littermates 9.7 mEq/l). Newborn [small gamma, Greek]ENaC (-/-) mice cleared lung liquid more slowly than control littermates, but lung water at 12 h (wet/dry = 5.5) was nearly normal (wet/dry = 5.3). This study suggests that [small gamma, Greek]ENaC facilitates neonatal lung liquid clearance and is critical for renal Na+ and K+ transport, and that low level Na+ transport may be sufficient for perinatal lung liquid absorption but insufficient to maintain electrolyte balance by the distal nephron. The [small gamma, Greek]ENaC (-/-) newborn exhibits a phenotype that resembles the clinical manifestations of human neonatal PHA1. (J. Clin. Invest. 1998. 102:1634-1640.)

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