An enzyme known to cause hypertension increases blood pressure by activating tiny pores, or channels, in kidney cells that allow increased levels of sodium to be reabsorbed into the blood, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found. The findings shed light on the underlying mechanisms that cause hypertension, and may also help explain why patients with hypertension linked to salt intake often need to take potassium supplements in order to keep their high blood pressure in check.
The study will appear in an upcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "This is a classic example of how basic research could lead to better understanding of human diseases and potentially to new therapeutic methods," said Dr. Bing-E Xu, assistant professor of pharmacology at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study.
The enzyme WNK1 is known to cause a form of hypertension, abbreviated PHA II, but until now the method by which it affected blood pressure was unclear. By studying animal and human cells in culture, UT Southwestern researchers determined that WNK1 interacts with and activates another enzyme, SGK1, which is well known to lead to the activation of sodium ion channels in kidney cells.
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