Salt sensitivity is probably caused by either a hereditary or acquired defect of salt excretion by the kidney, and it is reasonable to consider that this is the basis for differences in hypertension between black and white people. Dopamine acts in an autocrine/paracrine fashion to promote natriuresis in the proximal tubule and thick ascending loop of Henle. G-protein receptor kinases (or GRKs) are serine and threonine kinases that phosphorylate G protein-coupled receptors in response to agonist stimulation and uncouple the dopamine receptor from its G protein. This results in a desensitisation process that protects the cell from repeated agonist exposure. GRK4
activity is increased in spontaneously hypertensive rats, and infusion of GRK4
antisense oligonucleotides attenuates the increase in blood pressure (BP). This functional defect is replicated in the proximal tubule by expression of GRK4
variants namely p.Arg65Leu, p.Ala142Val and p.Val486Ala, in cell lines, with the p.Ala142Val showing the most activity. In humans, GRK4
polymorphisms were shown to be associated with essential hypertension in Australia, BP regulation in young adults, low renin hypertension in Japan and impaired stress-induced Na excretion in normotensive black men. In South Africa, GRK4
polymorphisms are more common in people of African descent, associated with impaired Na excretion in normotensive African people, and predict blood pressure response to Na restriction in African patients with mild to moderate essential hypertension. The therapeutic importance of the GRK4
single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) was emphasised in the African American Study of Kidney Disease (AASK) where African-Americans with hypertensive nephrosclerosis were randomised to receive amlodipine, ramipril or metoprolol. Men with the p.Ala142Val genotype were less likely to respond to metoprolol, especially if they also had the p.Arg65Leu variant. Furthermore, in the analysis of response to treatment in two major hypertension studies, the 65Leu/142Val heterozygote predicted a significantly decreased response to atenolol treatment, and the 65Leu/142Val heterozygote and 486Val homozygote were associated in an additive fashion with adverse cardiovascular outcomes, independent of BP. In conclusion, there is considerable evidence that GRK4
variants are linked to impaired Na excretion, hypertension in animal models and humans, therapeutic response to dietary Na restriction and response to antihypertensive drugs. It may also underlie the difference in hypertension between different geographically derived population groups, and form a basis for pharmacogenomic approaches to treatment of hypertension.