In animals, secretion of potassium (K) in the cortical collecting duct (CCD) is modulated by the properties of the accompanying anion. In humans, results are inconclusive as previous studies have not differentiated between a kaliuresis due to a rise in the concentration of K from one due to an increase in the volume of urine. Our purpose was to study the effects of chloride (Cl) and bicarbonate on the secretion of K in the CCD in humans using the transtubular K concentration gradient (TTKG), a semi-quantitative index of secretion of K in the terminal CCD. After control blood and urine samples were obtained, all subjects ingested 0.2 mg fludrocortisone to ensure that mineralocorticoids were not limiting the secretion of K. The anionic composition of the urine was varied using three protocols: Normal subjects (N = 11) ingested cystine and methionine to induce sulfaturia; nine subjects with a contracted ECF volume (to lower the concentration of Cl in the urine) were also studied during sulfaturia following the ingestion of cystine and methionine; 13 normovolemic subjects were studied during bicarbonaturia following the ingestion of acetazolamide. When the concentration of Cl in the urine was >15 mmol/liter, sulfate had no effect on the TTKG. With lower concentrations of Cl in the urine, the TTKG rose 1.5-fold. The TTKG rose 1.8-fold in the presence of bicarbonaturia despite concentrations of Cl in the urine that were >15 mmol/liter, suggesting that bicarbonate has additional effects on this K secretory process. At comparable concentrations of sulfate and bicarbonate in the urine, the TTKG was increased only with bicarbonaturia. We conclude that it is important to control for the effects of the accompanying anions when evaluating the role of the kidney in disorders of K homeostasis.
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