Salt Transport Authority to Describe Latest Research on Tubulopathies

David H. Ellison


An expert on salt transport by the kidney will deliver the Robert W. Schrier Endowed Lectureship on the topic, “Salt-Losing Tubulopathies.”

David H. Ellison, MD, FASN, is professor of medicine, professor of physiology and pharmacology, and associate director of the Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute at Oregon Health and Science University. He headed its division of nephrology and hypertension for 13 years. He is also a staff physician at the Portland VA Medical Center.

Dr. Ellison’s research centers on mechanisms of salt transport by the kidney, on the genetic basis of human blood pressure variation, and on diuretic treatment of edema. His work was translational before that term was even coined. A long-term focus of his research is the protein target of thiazide diuretics, drugs recommended as first-line antihypertensive agents. His early studies showed that the thiazide-sensitive Na-Cl transporter (NCC) is the dominant solute transport pathway along the distal convoluted tubule. This work led to the discovery that mutations in NCC cause Gitelman syndrome, a hypokalemic disease.

Dr. Ellison also showed that the antibiotic trimethoprim causes hyperkalemia by blocking sodium channels in the distal nephron, which is now a recognized side effect. Another one of his discoveries, that chronic treatment with high doses of loop diuretics activates solute transporters along the distal nephron, helped inform the use of combination diuretic treatment for resistant edema.

Recently, Dr. Ellison has been a leader in defining a novel kinase pathway in the kidney that, when mutated, causes familial hyperkalemic hypertension. His group has also demonstrated that the immunosuppressive drug tacrolimus causes hyperkalemia and hypertension by activating the NCC; this work is being used to design safer drugs for organ transplant recipients.

Dr. Ellison chairs the nephrology subspecialty board of the American Board of Internal Medicine, and is past chair of the American Heart Association’s Council on the Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease. He was program chair for ASN’s Renal Week in 2010. He is an elected member of the Association of American Physicians, and a standing member of the kidney molecular biology and genitourinary organ development study section of the National Institutes of Health. He recently completed service on the renal merit review study section for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Dr. Ellison also has an active clinical practice in nephrology, and is a dedicated teacher and mentor to medical students, residents, nephrology fellows, and postdoctoral scientists.


[1] ASN gratefully acknowledges Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Novartis, Astellas Pharma US, and several individuals for support of the Robert W. Schrier Endowed Lectureship.

October-November 2013 (Vol. 5, Number 10 &11)