Endocrine tumors such as aldosterone-producing adrenal adenomas (APAs), a cause of severe hypertension, feature constitutive hormone production and unrestrained cell proliferation; the mechanisms linking these events are unknown. We identify two recurrent somatic mutations in and near the selectivity filter of the potassium (K(+)) channel KCNJ5 that are present in 8 of 22 human APAs studied. Both produce increased sodium (Na(+)) conductance and cell depolarization, which in adrenal glomerulosa cells produces calcium (Ca(2+)) entry, the signal for aldosterone production and cell proliferation. Similarly, we identify an inherited KCNJ5 mutation that produces increased Na(+) conductance in a Mendelian form of severe aldosteronism and massive bilateral adrenal hyperplasia. These findings explain pathogenesis in a subset of patients with severe hypertension and implicate loss of K(+) channel selectivity in constitutive cell proliferation and hormone production.