"What happens is that WNK4 normally inhibits WNK3, reducing salt resorption," Ellison said. "Mutant WNK4 blocks this effect, thereby generating more active WNK3, increasing salt transport and causing hypertension."
The WNK kinases are members of one of the largest protein families in the human body. There are 518 of them, coordinating a wide variety of biological functions. The WNK kinases, which were discovered in 2000, have been objects of research since a group led by Dr. Richard P. Lifton, who heads his own laboratory at Yale University, found a link between them and a rare inherited form of high blood pressure, called familial hyperkalemic hypertension.
Lifton had no immediate comment on the new report.
The new research is still at a basic level, Ellison said. "If we develop a new pharmaceutical approach to hypertension, that could be helpful," he added.
A guide to lowering high blood pressure is offered by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
SOURCES: David H. Ellison, M.D., professor, medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland; Nov. 1, 2007, Journal of Clinical Investigation
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