Heddwen L Brooks
Associate Professor, Pharmacology
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Professor, Biomedical Engineering
Professor, Medicine
Professor, Physiological Sciences - GIDP
Professor, Physiology
Primary Department
Department Affiliations
(520) 626-7702
Research Interest
Dr. Brooks is a renal physiologist and has developed microarray technology to address in vivo signaling pathways involved in the hormonal regulation of renal function. Current areas of research in the Brooks Laboratory are focused on importance of sex differences in the onset of postmenopausal hypertension and diabetic kidney disease and identifying new therapies for polycystic kidney disease and lithium-induced nephropathy.


Takahashi, N., Brooks, H. L., Wade, J. B., Liu, W., Kondo, Y., Ito, S., Knepper, M. A., & Smithies, O. (2002). Posttranscriptional compensation for heterozygous disruption of the kidney-specific NaK2Cl cotransporter gene. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology : JASN, 13(3), 604-10.

Mice homozygous for a loss of function mutation of the kidney-specific NaK2Cl cotransporter, BSC1/NKCC2, do not survive. Here the effects of loss of one copy of the gene are studied. NKCC2 mRNA of NKCC2 +/- kidney was 55 +/- 6% of +/+, yet no differences were found between NKCC2 +/+ and +/- mice in BP, blood gas, electrolytes, creatinine, plasma renin concentration, urine volume and osmolality, ability to concentrate and dilute urine, and response to furosemide. When mice were challenged with 180 mM NH(4)Cl, plasma ammonia and urinary ammonia excretion were increased twofold and fivefold, respectively, but there was still no difference between the two genotypes. NKCC2 +/- mice had a near-normal level of NKCC2 protein and no clear change in the distribution of NKCC2 in the thick ascending limb (TAL) cells. In vitro microperfusion of isolated TAL showed no significant difference between the two genotypes in the basal and vasopressin-stimulated capacity to reabsorb NaCl. There was no difference in the mRNA expressions of thiazide-sensitive NaCl cotransporter, epithelial Na channel (ENaC), aquaporin-2, ROMK, and NaKATPase. Halving the mRNA expression of NKCC2 does not affect BP or fluid balance because of compensatory factors that restore the protein level to near normal. One possible factor is a regulated increase in the movement of cytoplasmic protein to the luminal membrane leading to a restoration of functional transporter to an essentially wild type level.

Brooks, H. L., Ageloff, S., Kwon, T., Brandt, W., Terris, J. M., Seth, A., Michea, L., Nielsen, S., Fenton, R., & Knepper, M. A. (2003). cDNA array identification of genes regulated in rat renal medulla in response to vasopressin infusion. American journal of physiology. Renal physiology, 284(1), F218-28.

With the aim of identifying possible gene targets for direct or indirect regulation by vasopressin in the renal medulla, we have carried out cDNA array experiments in inner medullas of Brattleboro rats infused with the V(2) receptor-selective vasopressin analog desamino-Cys1,d-Arg8 vasopressin (dDAVP) for 72 h. Of the 1,176 genes on the array, 137 transcripts were increased by 2-fold or more, and 10 transcripts were decreased to 0.5-fold or less. Quantitative, real-time RT-PCR measurements confirmed increases seen for six selected transcripts (Wilms' tumor protein, beta-arrestin 2, neurofibromin, casein kinase IIbeta, aquaporin-3, and aquaporin-4). To correlate changes in mRNA expression with changes in protein expression, we carried out quantitative immunoblotting for 28 of the proteins whose cDNAs were on the array. For several targets including aquaporin-2, transcript abundance and protein abundance changes did not correlate. However, for most genes examined, changes in mRNA abundances were associated with concomitant protein abundance changes. Targets with demonstrated increases in both protein and mRNA abundances included neurofibromin, casein kinase IIbeta, the beta-subunit of the epithelial Na channel (beta-ENaC), 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2, and c-Fos. Additional cDNA arrays revealed that several transcripts that were increased in abundance after 72 h of dDAVP were also increased after 4 h, including casein kinase IIbeta, beta-ENaC, aquaporin-3, UT-A, and syntaxin 2. These studies have identified several transcripts whose abundances are regulated in the inner medulla in response to infusion of dDAVP and that could play roles in the regulation of salt and water excretion.

Beutler, K. T., Masilamani, S., Turban, S., Nielsen, J., Brooks, H. L., Ageloff, S., Fenton, R. A., Packer, R. K., & Knepper, M. A. (2003). Long-term regulation of ENaC expression in kidney by angiotensin II. Hypertension, 41(5), 1143-50.

We carried out semiquantitative immunoblotting of kidney to identify apical sodium transporter proteins whose abundances are regulated by angiotensin II. In NaCl-restricted rats (0.5 mEq Na/200 g BW/d), the type 1 angiotensin II receptor (AT1 receptor) antagonist, candesartan, (1 mg/kg of body weight per day SC for 2 days) markedly decreased the abundance of the alpha subunit of the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC). This subunit has been shown to be rate-limiting for assembly of mature ENaC complexes. In addition, systemic infusion of angiotensin II increased alphaENaC protein abundance in rat kidney cortex. The decrease in alphaENaC protein abundance in response to AT1 receptor blockade was associated with a fall in alphaENaC mRNA abundance (real-time RT-PCR), consistent with transcriptionally mediated regulation. The effect of AT1 receptor blockade on alphaENaC expression was not blocked by spironolactone, suggesting a direct role of the AT1 receptor in regulation of alphaENaC gene expression. Candesartan administration was also found to increase the abundances of the beta and gamma subunits. The increase in beta and gammaENaC protein abundance was not associated with a significant increase in the renal abundances of the corresponding mRNAs, suggesting a posttranscriptional mechanism. Immunocytochemistry confirmed the increase in beta and gammaENaC protein abundance and demonstrated candesartan-induced ENaC internalization in collecting duct cells. The results support the view that the angiotensin II receptor regulates ENaC abundance, consistent with a role for angiotensin II in regulation of collecting duct function.

Sutherland, V. L., McReynolds, M., Tompkins, L. S., Brooks, H. L., & Lynch, R. M. (2005). Developmental expression of glucokinase in rat hypothalamus. Brain research. Developmental brain research, 154(2), 255-8.

Neurons in the hypothalamus sense changes in glucose concentration. Glucokinase (GK), a key enzyme for pancreatic (beta)-cell glucose sensing, was found in both the embryonic and adult hypothalamus. GK activity accounted for approximately 20% of total hexokinase (HK) activity in both embryonic and adult hypothalamus with no activity measured in cortical samples, indicating that glucose sensing in the hypothalamus initiates early in development and precedes the maturation of glucose signaling in liver.

Brooks, H., Cai, Q., McReynolds, M. R., Keck, M., Greer, K. A., Hoying, J. B., & Brooks, H. L. (2007). Vasopressin receptor subtype 2 activation increases cell proliferation in the renal medulla of AQP1 null mice. American journal of physiology. Renal physiology, 293(6).

Aquaporin (AQP) 1 null mice have a defect in the renal concentrating gradient because of their inability to generate a hyperosmotic medullary interstitium. To determine the effect of vasopressin on renal medullary gene expression, in the absence of high local osmolarity, we infused 1-deamino-8-d-arginine vasopressin (dDAVP), a V(2) receptor (V(2)R)-specific agonist, in AQP1 null mice for 7 days. cDNA microarray analysis was performed on the renal medullary tissue, and 5,140 genes of the possible 12,000 genes on the array were included in the analysis. In the renal medulla of AQP1 null mice, 245 transcripts were identified as increased by dDAVP infusion and 200 transcripts as decreased (1.5-fold or more). Quantitative real-time PCR measurements confirmed the increases seen for cyclin D1, early growth response gene 1, and activating transcription factor 3, genes associated with changes in cell cycle/growth. Changes in mRNA expression were correlated with changes in protein expression by semiquantitative immunoblotting; cyclin D1 and ATF3 were increased significantly in abundance following dDAVP infusion in the renal medulla of AQP1 null mice (161 and 461%, respectively). A significant increase in proliferation of medullary collecting ducts cells, following V(2)R activation, was identified by proliferating cell nuclear antigen immunohistochemistry; colocalization studies with AQP2 indicated that the increase in proliferation was primarily observed in principal cells of the inner medullary collecting duct (IMCD). V(2)R activation, via dDAVP, increased AQP2 and AQP3 protein abundance in the cortical collecting ducts of AQP1 null mice. However, V(2)R activation did not increase AQP2 protein abundance in the IMCD of AQP1 null mice.