1. The precise role of prostaglandins in modulating urine concentration and dilution is unclear. Evidence in vitro has recently cast doubt on the accepted theory that renal prostaglandins inhibit the hydro-osmotic effect of vasopressin.
2. Urine clearance studies were performed on indomethacin treated (prostaglandin deficient) and control anaesthetized water diuretic rats both before and during the addition of vasopressin in maximal (10 m-units) and supramaximal (100 m-units) concentrations.
3. Before the addition of vasopressin, indomethacin treatment inhibited the excretion of a water load by 48.7%. The mean papillary sodium concentration was also greater in this group of rats.
4. Vasopressin (10 m-units) increased the urine osmolality in control and indomethacin treated rats; however, the mean urine osmolality was greater in the indomethacin group (1521 ± 103 compared with 1120 ± 98 mosmol/kg; P < 0.01), as was the papillary sodium concentration. A tenfold increase in vasopressin depressed the papillary sodium concentration to a level similar to that in the control group and produced a marked natriuresis. Consequently, the mean urine osmolalities and urine flows were similar in control and indomethacin treated rats.
5. These experiments suggest that a major function of renal prostaglandins is to increase the ability of the kidney to excrete a water load. Renal prostaglandins do not interfere with the vasopressin induced increase in distal nephron water permeability.