The molecular genetic approach to ”Bartter’s syndrome”
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The term ”Bartter’s syndrome” comprises a set of autosomal recessively inherited renal tubular disorders characterized by hypokalemia, metabolic alkalosis, hyperreninism, and hyperaldosteronism but normal blood pressure. Additional clinical and biochemical features led to a classification into phenotypically different tubulopathies: Gitelman’s syndrome, hyperprostaglandin E syndrome (antenatal Bartter’s syndrome), and classic Bartter’s syndrome. Gitelman’s syndrome results from mutations in the SLC12A3 gene encoding the human thiazide-sensitive sodium chloride cotransporter, leading to impaired reabsorption of sodium chloride in the distal convoluted tubule. Genetic heterogeneity of hyperprostaglandin E syndrome has been demonstrated by identification of mutations in the SLC12A1 gene as well as in the KCNJ1 gene. Mutations in SLC12A1 coding for the bumetanide-sensitive sodium potassium 2 chloride cotransporter (NKCC2) cause defective reabsorption of sodium chloride in the thick ascending limb of Henle’s loop. Mutations in KCNJ1 leading to loss of function of the potassium channel ROMK disrupt potassium recycling back to the tubule lumen and inhibit thereby the NKCC2 activity. A third gene for hyperprostaglandin E syndrome has been mapped to the short arm of chromosome 1, and it remains to be evaluated whether other genes are involved in the pathogenesis of this disease. Classic Bartter’s syndrome has been demonstrated to result from defective chloride transport across the basolateral membrane in the distal nephron due to mutations in the chloride channel gene CLCNKB. This article reviews the molecular genetic approach that has led to identification of genetic defects underlying the different hypokalemic tubulopathies.
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