AIM: The serine protease prostasin (Prss8) is expressed in the distal tubule and stimulates proteolytic activation of the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) in co-expression experiments in vitro. The aim of this study was to explore the role of prostasin in proteolytic ENaC activation in the kidney in vivo. METHODS: We used genetically modified knockin mice carrying a Prss8 mutation abolishing proteolytic activity (Prss8-S238A) or a mutation leading to a zymogen-locked state (Prss8-R44Q). Mice were challenged with low sodium diet and diuretics. Regulation of ENaC activity by Prss8-S238A and Prss8-R44Q was studied in vitro using the Xenopus laevis oocyte expression system. RESULTS: Co-expression of murine ENaC with Prss8-wt or Prss8-S238A in oocytes caused maximal proteolytic ENaC activation, whereas ENaC was activated only partially in oocytes co-expressing Prss8-R44Q. This was paralleled by a reduced proteolytic activity at the cell surface of Prss8-R44Q expressing oocytes. Sodium conservation under low sodium diet was preserved in Prss8-S238A and Prss8-R44Q mice but with higher plasma aldosterone concentrations in Prss8-R44Q mice. Treatment with the ENaC inhibitor triamterene over four days was tolerated in Prss8-wt and Prss8-S238A mice, whereas Prss8-R44Q mice developed salt wasting and severe weight loss associated with hyperkalemia and acidosis consistent with impaired ENaC function and renal failure. CONCLUSION: Unlike proteolytically inactive Prss8-S238A, zymogen-locked Prss8-R44Q produces incomplete proteolytic ENaC activation in vitro and causes a severe renal phenotype in mice treated with the ENaC inhibitor triamterene. This indicates that Prss8 plays a role in proteolytic ENaC activation and renal function independent of its proteolytic activity.