The prevailing view is that the ClC-Ka chloride channel (mouse Clc-k1) functions in the thin ascending limb to control urine concentration, whereas the ClC-Kb channel (mouse Clc-k2) functions in the thick ascending limb (TAL) to control salt reabsorption. Mutations of ClC-Kb cause classic Bartter syndrome, characterized by renal salt wasting, with perinatal to adolescent onset. We studied the roles of Clc-k channels in perinatal mouse kidneys using constitutive or inducible kidney-specific gene ablation and 2D and advanced 3D imaging of optically cleared kidneys. We show that Clc-k1 and Clc-k2 were broadly expressed and colocalized in perinatal kidneys. Deletion of Clc-k1 and Clc-k2 revealed that both participated in NKCC2- and NCC-mediated NaCl reabsorption in neonatal kidneys. Embryonic deletion of Clc-k2 caused tubular injury and impaired renal medulla and TAL development. Inducible deletion of Clc-k2 beginning after medulla maturation produced mild salt wasting resulting from reduced NCC activity. Thus, both Clc-k1 and Clc-k2 contributed to salt reabsorption in TAL and distal convoluted tubule (DCT) in neonates, potentially explaining the lesssevere phenotypes in classic Bartter syndrome. As opposed to the current understanding that salt wasting in adult patients with Bartter syndrome is due to Clc-k2 deficiency in adult TAL, our results suggest that it originates mainly from defects occurring in the medulla and TAL during development.
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