The renal response to potassium stress: integrating past with present

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Purpose of review

The current review combines past findings with recent advances in our understanding of the homeostatic response to potassium imbalance.

Recent findings

Following the ingestion of a dietary potassium load, a combination of extrarenal and renal mechanisms act to maintain extracellular K+ within a tight window. Through hormonal regulation and direct K+ sensing, the nephron is ideally suited to respond to wide shifts in external K+ balance. Current evidence indicates that dietary K+ loading triggers a coordinated kaliuretic response that appears to involve voltage-dependent changes in sodium transport across multiple nephron segments, including the proximal tubule, medullary loop of Henle, and distal tubule. Inhibition of sodium transport in these segments would accomplish the final goal of enhancing distal NaCl delivery, luminal flow, and K+ secretion in the aldosterone sensitive distal nephron (ASDN).


Ongoing research seeks to define the relationship between potassium and volume homeostasis by elucidating pathways that couple renal K+ sensing and tubular function during the potassium stress response.

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