BK channels are expressed in intercalated cells (ICs) and principal cells (PCs) in the cortical collecting duct (CCD) of the mammalian kidney and have been proposed to be responsible for flow-induced K+ secretion (FIKS) and K+ adaptation. To examine the IC-specific role of BK channels, we generated a mouse with targeted disruption of the pore-forming BK α subunit (BKα) in ICs (IC-BKα-KO). Whole cell charybdotoxin-sensitive (ChTX-sensitive) K+ currents were readily detected in control ICs but largely absent in ICs of IC-BKα-KO mice. When placed on a high K+ (HK) diet for 13 days, blood [K+] was significantly greater in IC-BKα-KO mice versus controls in males only, although urinary K+ excretion rates following isotonic volume expansion were similar in males and females. FIKS was present in microperfused CCDs isolated from controls but was absent in IC-BKα-KO CCDs of both sexes. Also, flow-stimulated epithelial Na+ channel-mediated (ENaC-mediated) Na+ absorption was greater in CCDs from female IC-BKα-KO mice than in CCDs from males. Our results confirm a critical role of IC BK channels in FIKS. Sex contributes to the capacity for adaptation to a HK diet in IC-BKα-KO mice.
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