1. Neonatal sympathectomy with 6 hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) was used as a tool to assess the significance of an increased sympathetic vascular tone for the development of high blood pressure in stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats. After administration of 6-OHDA the rise in blood pressure was blunted for the following 9 weeks until innervation was re-established. 6-OHDA-treated rats retained more sodium and had larger plasma and blood volumes than sham-treated rats.
2. Catecholamines in plasma were increased 2–10-fold immediately after sympathectomy, but their concentrations were subnormal on day 7. Eight weeks after sympathectomy plasma noradrenaline and dopamine were not elevated, but plasma adrenaline has increased twofold.
3. The reactivity of resistance vessels to noradrenaline was markedly enhanced and the neuronal uptake and metabolism of noradrenaline were still reduced 8 weeks after neonatal sympathectomy.
4. These results confirm the significance of an intact sympathetic nervous system for the development in these rats. Sodium retention and increased plasma and blood volume may be considered as a compensatory mechanism for the vasodilatation resulting from decreased vasomotor tone.