1. A number of abnormalities in the extracellular and intracellular handling of calcium in arterial hypertension, namely an increased urinary calcium excretion, a reduced serum ionized calcium level and an enhanced intracellular free calcium concentration, have previously been reported by this and other laboratories.

2. The present study aimed to investigate the handling of an exogenous calcium load in hypertensive and normotensive subjects in order to detect possible differences with regard to tissue calcium metabolism in vivo.

3. A constant rate intravenous calcium infusion (0.2 mmol 2 h−1 kg−1 body wt.) was carried out in the participants. Serum calcium concentrations were determined at regular intervals during the infusion and in the 4 h after the end of the calcium load. Over the same period, urinary calcium excretion was evaluated in timed urine collections.

4. Hypertensive subjects had lower serum ionized calcium levels compared with normotensive subjects at all the experimental points, a finding suggestive of a faster disappearance of calcium from the circulation. The total body calcium clearance, calculated from the area under the curve of the serum calcium concentrations, was enhanced in hypertensive patients (P < 0.03).

5. Although the renal calcium excretion was higher in hypertension, the renal calcium clearance accounted for only a minor fraction of the total body clearance, suggesting that the reduced serum calcium levels achieved by the hypertensive patients were not explained by the renal calcium leak.

6. The enhanced total body calcium clearance found in hypertensive subjects is therefore due to an increased tissue calcium uptake. This finding provides indirect evidence of an altered cell calcium handling in hypertension.

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