The routes water takes through membrane barriers is still a matter of debate. Although aquaporins only allow transmembrane water movement along an osmotic gradient, cotransporters are believed to be capable of water transport against the osmotic gradient. Here we show that the renal potassium-chloride- cotransporter (KCC1) does not pump a fixed amount of water molecules per movement of one K+ and one Cl-, as was reported for the analogous transporter in the choroid plexus. We monitored water and potassium fluxes through monolayers of primary cultured renal epithelial cells by detecting tiny solute concentration changes in the immediate vicinity of the monolayer. KCC1 extruded K+ ions in the presence of a transepithelial K+ gradient, but did not transport water. KCC1 inhibition reduced epithelial osmotic water permeability Pf by roughly one-third, i.e., the effect of inhibitors was small in resting cells and substantial in hormonal stimulated cells that contained high concentrations of aquaporin-2 in their apical membranes. The furosemide or DIOA (dihydroindenyl-oxy-alkanoic acid)-sensitive water flux was much larger than expected when water passively followed the KCC1-mediated ion flow. The inhibitory effect of these drugs on water flux was reversed by the K+-H+ exchanger nigericin, indicating that KCC1 affects water transport solely by K+ extrusion. Intracellular K+ retention conceivably leads to cell swelling, followed by an increased rate of endocytic AQP2 retrieval from the apical membrane. © 2010 by the Biophysical Society.
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