We measured the activities of epithelial Na channels (ENaC) and ROMK channels in the distal nephron of the mouse kidney and assessed their role in the process of K+ secretion under different physiological conditions. Under basal dietary conditions (0.5% K), ENaC activity, measured as amiloride-sensitive currents, was high in cells at the distal end of the distal convoluted tubule (DCT) and proximal end of the connecting tubule (CNT), a region we call the early CNT (CNTe). In more distal parts of the CNT (aldosterone-sensitive portion [CNTas]), these currents were minimal. This functional difference correlated with alterations in the intracellular location of ENaC, which was at or near the apical membrane in CNTe and more cytoplasmic in the CNTas. ROMK activity, measured as TPNQ-sensitive currents, was substantial in both segments. A mathematical model of the rat nephron suggested that K+ secretion by the CNTe predicted from these currents provides much of the urinary K+ required for K balance on this diet. In animals fed a K-deficient diet (0.1% K), both ENaC and ROMK currents in the CNTe decreased by ∼50%, predicting a 50% decline in K+ secretion. Enhanced reabsorption by a separate mechanism is required to avoid excessive urinary K+ losses. In animals fed a diet supplemented with 3% K, ENaC currents increased modestly in the CNTe but strongly in the CNTas, while ROMK currents tripled in both segments. The enhanced secretion of K+ by the CNTe and the recruitment of secretion by the CNTas account for the additional transport required for K balance. Therefore, adaptation to increased K+ intake involves the extension of robust K+ secretion to more distal parts of the nephron.

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