Urea plays a key role in the urine-concentrating mechanism. Physiologic and molecular data demonstrate that urea transport in kidney and red blood cells occurs by specific urea transporter proteins. Two gene families for facilitated urea transporters, UT-A and UT-B, and several urea transporter cDNA isoforms have been cloned from human, rat, mouse, and several non-mammalian species. Polyclonal antibodies have been generated to many of the urea transporter proteins, and several novel findings have resulted from their use in integrative animal studies. For example, () vasopressin increases the phosphorylation of UT-A1 in rat inner medullary collecting duct; () UT-A1 protein abundance is increased in the rat inner medulla during conditions in which urine-concentrating ability is reduced; and () urea transporters are expressed in non-renal tissues, and UT-A protein abundance is up-regulated in uremia in both liver and heart. In addition to the facilitated urea transporters, functional evidence exists for active urea transport in the kidney collecting duct. This review summarizes the physiologic evidence for the existence of facilitated and active urea transporters, the molecular biology of the facilitated urea transporter gene families and cDNAs, and integrative studies into urea transporter protein regulation, both in the kidney and in other organs.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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