Homeostatic control of plasma K+ is a necessary physiological function. The daily dietary K+ intake of approximately 100 mmol is excreted predominantly by the distal tubules of the kidney. About 10% of the ingested K+ is excreted via the intestine. K+ handling in both organs is specifically regulated by hormones and adapts readily to changes in dietary K+ intake, aldosterone and multiple local paracrine agonists. In chronic renal insufficiency, colonic K+ secretion is greatly enhanced and becomes an important accessory K+ excretory pathway. During severe diarrheal diseases of different causes, intestinal K+ losses caused by activated ion secretion may become life threatening. This topical review provides an update of the molecular mechanisms and the regulation of mammalian colonic K+ absorption and secretion. It is motivated by recent results, which have identified the K+ secretory ion channel in the apical membrane of distal colonic enterocytes. The directed focus therefore covers the role of the apical Ca2+ and cAMP-activated BK channel (KCa1.1) as the apparently only secretory K+ channel in the distal colon.
Pflügers Archiv - European Journal of Physiology, 2010, Vol 459, p. 645-656