1. Both plasma and urinary dopamine and noradrenaline were measured as free and sulphate conjugates, by a radioenzymatic method, before and during extracellular volume expansion (ECVE) with hypo-, iso- or hyper-tonic fluid (usually sodium chloride solution) in dogs.
2. During ECVE there was a decrease in plasma catecholamine concentration. For all cases except noradrenaline, this is probably due to a dilution phenomenon since when results were expressed as pg/mg of protein, ECVE had no effect. This change in noradrenaline accounted for the increase in the dopamine/noradrenaline ratio.
3. As expected, there was an increase in the urinary excretion of dopamine during ECVE with both iso- and hyper-tonic fluid. This increase was not observed in the group of dogs given hypotonic fluid, although the increase of fractional excretion of sodium was of a similar order of magnitude.
4. The increase in the urinary excretion of dopamine was apparently not affected by an increase in plasma sodium concentration and/or osmolality.
5. The demonstrated dissociation between sodium and dopamine in urine does not support a physiological role for dopamine in renal handling of sodium during ECVE, and raises the question of its specificity.