Might distal renal tubular acidosis be a proximal tubular cell disorder?
Incomplete renal tubular acidosis (RTA) and overt distal RTA may be different stages of the same underlying pathophysiology in certain individuals. The rationale that draws these conditions together is the relatively alkaline pH of the urine, hypocitraturia, and a possible familial association. The rate of excretion of ammonium (NH4+), on the other hand, suggests that these conditions stem from fundamentally different lesions. To explain this difference, we suggest that two possible disorders may result in the evolution from incomplete RTA to overt distal RTA. One subgroup could have gradient-limited distal RTA, while the other subgroup may have a lower pH of the intracellular fluid of the proximal convoluted tubular epithelium. Indices of proximal intracellular pH (rates of excretion of NH4+, NH3, and citrate) were culled from the literature spanning the years 1959 to 1991 on patients with incomplete RTA and overt distal RTA. Three points emerge: (1) the rate of excretion of NH4+ was