Background/Aim: Epithelial Na+ channels (ENaC) play a crucial role in control of blood pressure by regulating renal Na+ reabsorption. Intracellular trafficking of ENaC is one of the key regulators of ENaC function, but a quantitative description of intracellular recycling of endogenously expressed ENaC is unavailable. We attempt here to provide a model for intracellular recycling after applying a protease inhibitor under hypotonic conditions. Methods: We simulated the ENaC-mediated Na+ transport in renal epithelial A6 cells measured as short-circuit currents using a four-state mathematical ENaC trafficking model. Results: We developed a four-state mathematical model of ENaC trafficking in the cytosol of renal epithelial cells that consists of: an insertion state of ENaC that can be trafficked to the apical membrane state (insertion rate); an apical membrane state of ENaC conducting Na+ across the apical membrane; a recycling state containing ENaC that are retrieved from the apical membrane state (endocytotic rate) and then to the insertion state (recycling rate) communicating with the apical membrane state or to a degradation state (degradation rate). We studied the effect of aprotinin (a protease inhibitor) blocking protease-induced cleavage of the extracellular loop of γ ENaC subunit on the rates of intracellular ENaC trafficking using the above-defined four-state mathematical model of ENaC trafficking and the recycling number relative to ENaC staying in the apical membrane. We found that aprotinin significantly reduced the insertion rate of ENaC to the apical membrane by 40%, the recycling rate of ENaC by 81%, the cumulative time of an individual ENaC staying in the apical membrane by 32%, the cumulative life-time after the first endocytosis of ENaC by 25%, and the cumulative Na+ absorption by 31%. The most interesting result of the present study is that cleavage of ENaC affects the intracellular ENaC trafficking rate and determines the residency time of ENaC, indicating that more active cleaved ENaCs stay longer at the apical membrane contributing to transcellular Na+ transport via an increase in recycling of ENaC to the apical membrane. Conclusion: The extracellular protease-induced cleavage of the extracellular loop of γ ENaC subunit increases transcellular epithelial Na+ transport by elevating the recycling rate of ENaC due to an increase in the recycling rate of ENaCs associated with increases in the insertion rate of ENaC.

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