Although the aldosterone-responsive segments of the nephron together reabsorb <10% of the filtered Na+, certain single-gene defects that affect the epithelial Na+ channel (ENaC) in the luminal membrane of the collecting duct (CD) or its regulation by aldosterone cause severe hypertension, whereas others cause salt wasting and hypotension. These rare defects illustrate the key role of the distal nephron in maintaining normal extracellular volume and blood pressure. Genetic defects that increase the Cl- conductance of the junctional complexes may also lead to salt retention and hypertension. Less dramatic alterations in regulatory actions of other hormones such as vasopressin (VP), either alone or with other genetic variations, diet, or environmental factors, may also produce Na+ retention or loss. Although VP acts primarily to regulate water balance, it is also an antinatriuretic hormone. Elevated basal plasma VP levels, and/or augmented VP release with increased Na+ intake, have been linked to essential hypertension in humans and in animal models of congestive heart failure and cirrhosis. Norepinephrine, dopamine, and prostaglandin E2 can inhibit the antinatriuretic effects of VP, and changes in the actions of these autocrine and paracrine regulators may also be involved in abnormal regulation of Na+ reabsorption.