Na-K-2Cl cotransporters help determine cell composition and volume. NKCC1 is widely distributed whilst NKCC2 is only found in the kidney where it plays a vital role reabsorbing 20% of filtered NaCl. NKCC2 regulation is poorly understood because of its restricted distribution and difficulties with its expression in mammalian cell cultures. Here we compare phosphorylation of the N-termini of the cotransporters, measured with phospho-specific antibodies, with bumetanide-sensitive transport of K+ (86Rb+) (activity) in HEK-293 cells stably expressing fNKCC1 or fNKCC2A which were cloned from ferret kidney. Activities of transfected transporters were distinguished from those of endogenous ones by working at 37°C. fNKCC1 and fNKCC2A activities were highest after pre-incubation of cells in hypotonic low-[Cl−] media to reduce cell [Cl−] and volume during flux measurement. Phosphorylation of both transporters more than doubled. Pre-incubation with ouabain also strongly stimulated fNKCC1 and fNKCC2A and substantially increased phosphorylation, whereas pre-incubation in Na+-free media maximally stimulated fNKCC1 and doubled its phosphorylation, but inhibited fNKCC2A, with a small increase in its phosphorylation. Kinase inhibitors halved phosphorylation and activity of both transporters whereas inhibition of phosphatases with calyculin A strongly increased phosphorylation of both transporters but only slightly stimulated fNKCC1 and inhibited fNCCC2A. Thus kinase inhibition reduced phosphorylation and transport, and transport stimulation was only seen when phosphorylation increased, but transport did not always increase with phosphorylation. This suggests phosphorylation of the N-termini determines the transporters' potential capacity to move ions, but final activity also depends on other factors. Transport cannot be reliably inferred solely using phospho-specific antibodies on whole-cell lysates
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