Alternative splicing of NHE-1 mediates Na-Li countertransport and associates with activity rate

Gianpaolo Zerbini, Anna Maestroni, Diego Breviario, Ruggero Mangili, Giorgio Casari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sodium-lithium countertransport (SLC) is an ouabain-insensitive exchange of Na for Li found in the erythrocyte membrane of several mammalian species. Although increased SLC activity is presently the most consistent intermediate phenotype of essential hypertension and diabetic nephropathy in humans, the gene responsible for this membrane transport has not been identified. Because of functional similarities, SLC was suggested to represent an in vitro mode of operation of the Na-H exchanger (NHE). This hypothesis, however, has been long hampered by the total insensitivity of SLC to amiloride, which is an intrinsic inhibitor of the first isoform of NHE, the only NHE isoform detected in human erythrocytes. We describe here the identification in human reticulocytes and erythrocytes of an alternative splicing of NHE lacking the amiloride binding site. Transfection experiments with this spliced variant restore amiloride-insensitive, phloretin-sensitive SLC activity. Expression of both regular and spliced transcripts of NHE is increased in subjects with high SLC activity. Altogether, these findings, by extending to NHE the characteristics of inheritance and predictivity previously attributed to SLC, eventually restore the candidacy of NHE isoform 1 as a gene involved in the pathogenesis of essential hypertension and diabetic nephropathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1511-1518
Number of pages8
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Internal Medicine


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