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Reviewed December 2011

What is the official name of the WNK1 gene?

The official name of this gene is “WNK lysine deficient protein kinase 1.”

WNK1 is the gene's official symbol. The WNK1 gene is also known by other names, listed below.

Read more about gene names and symbols on the About page.

What is the normal function of the WNK1 gene?

The WNK1 gene provides instructions for making multiple versions (isoforms) of the WNK1 protein. The different WNK1 isoforms are important in several functions in the body, including blood pressure regulation and pain sensation.

One isoform produced from the WNK1 gene is the full-length version, called the L-WNK1 protein, which is found in cells throughout the body. A different isoform, called the kidney-specific WNK1 protein or KS-WNK1, is found only in kidney cells. The L-WNK1 and KS-WNK1 proteins act as kinases, which are enzymes that change the activity of other proteins by adding a cluster of oxygen and phosphorus atoms (a phosphate group) at specific positions.

The L-WNK1 and KS-WNK1 proteins regulate channels in the cell membrane that control the transport of sodium or potassium into and out of cells, which occurs primarily in the kidneys. Sodium channels help transport sodium into specialized cells of the kidney, from which it is transferred to the blood. This transfer helps keep sodium in the body through a process called reabsorption. Potassium channels handle excess potassium that has been transferred from the blood into the kidney cells. The channels transport the potassium out of the cells in a process called secretion, so that it can be removed from the body in the urine.

The L-WNK1 protein increases sodium reabsorption and decreases potassium secretion, whereas the KS-WNK1 protein has the opposite effect. Sodium and potassium are important for regulating blood pressure, and a balance of L-WNK1 protein and KS-WNK1 protein in the kidneys helps maintain the correct levels of sodium and potassium for healthy blood pressure and potassium levels.

Another isoform produced from the WNK1 gene, called the WNK1/HSN2 protein, is found in the cells of the nervous system, including nerve cells that transmit the sensations of pain, temperature, and touch (sensory neurons). The function of the WNK1/HSN2 protein is unknown.

How are changes in the WNK1 gene related to health conditions?

hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy type II - caused by mutations in the WNK1 gene

Mutations in the WNK1 gene are responsible for one type of hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy type II (HSAN2) called HSAN2A. People with HSAN2A lose the ability to feel pain or sense hot and cold. At least nine mutations in the WNK1 gene have been identified in people with HSAN2A. All of these mutations lead to an abnormally shortened WNK1/HSN2 protein that is probably nonfunctional. People with HSAN2A have a reduction in the number of sensory neurons; however, the role that the abnormal WNK1/HSN2 protein plays in that loss is unclear. The loss of sensory neurons results in the signs and symptoms of HSAN2A.

pseudohypoaldosteronism type 2 - caused by mutations in the WNK1 gene

Mutations in the WNK1 gene can cause pseudohypoaldosteronism type 2 (PHA2), a condition characterized by high blood pressure (hypertension) and high levels of potassium in the blood (hyperkalemia). The mutations involved in this condition delete large numbers of DNA building blocks from the WNK1 gene. These deletions lead to increased activity of the WNK1 gene and excess L-WNK1 protein. Excess L-WNK1 protein abnormally increases sodium reabsorption and blocks potassium secretion. These effects lead to increased sodium and potassium in the body, resulting in hypertension and hyperkalemia.

other disorders - increased risk from variations of the WNK1 gene

Studies have associated normal variations in the WNK1 gene with an increased risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) in people without pseudohypoaldosteronism type 2. A combination of genetic variations and environmental factors likely influence the development of this complex condition.

Where is the WNK1 gene located?

Cytogenetic Location: 12p13.3

Molecular Location on chromosome 12: base pairs 752,593 to 911,452

(Homo sapiens Annotation Release 107, GRCh38.p2) (NCBIThis link leads to a site outside Genetics Home Reference.)

The WNK1 gene is located on the short (p) arm of chromosome 12 at position 13.3.

The WNK1 gene is located on the short (p) arm of chromosome 12 at position 13.3.

More precisely, the WNK1 gene is located from base pair 752,593 to base pair 911,452 on chromosome 12.

See How do geneticists indicate the location of a gene? in the Handbook.

Where can I find additional information about WNK1?

You and your healthcare professional may find the following resources about WNK1 helpful.

You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for genetics professionals and researchers.

What other names do people use for the WNK1 gene or gene products?

  • HSAN2
  • HSN2
  • KDP
  • p65
  • PPP1R167
  • prostate-derived sterile 20-like kinase
  • protein kinase, lysine deficient 1
  • protein kinase with no lysine 1
  • PSK
  • serine/threonine-protein kinase WNK1

Where can I find general information about genes?

The Handbook provides basic information about genetics in clear language.

These links provide additional genetics resources that may be useful.

What glossary definitions help with understanding WNK1?

cell ; cell membrane ; DNA ; gene ; hereditary ; hyperkalemia ; hypertension ; isoforms ; kidney ; kinase ; lysine ; nervous system ; neuropathy ; oxygen ; phosphate ; phosphorus ; potassium ; prostate ; protein ; secretion ; serine ; sodium ; threonine

You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.

See also Understanding Medical Terminology.

References (9 links)


The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.

Reviewed: December 2011
Published: February 8, 2016