Epithelial Na+ channels (ENaCs) are members of the ENaC/degenerin family of ion channels that evolved to respond to extracellular factors. In addition to being expressed in the distal aspects of the nephron, where ENaCs couple the absorption of filtered Na+ to K+ secretion, these channels are found in other epithelia as well as nonepithelial tissues. This review addresses mechanisms by which ENaC activity is regulated by extracellular factors, including proteases, Na+, and shear stress. It also addresses other factors, including acidic phospholipids and modification of ENaC cytoplasmic cysteine residues by palmitoylation, which enhance channel activity by altering interactions of the channel with the plasma membrane.


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