1. Ion balance, intestinal ion transport in vivo with luminal Ringer, and direct voltage clamping in vivo with luminal Ringer and sodium-free choline-Ringer were studied in young (40 days old) and adult (120 days old) spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and age-matched normotensive controls (Wistar–Kyoto rats, WKY).

2. Faecal sodium output was significantly higher in SHR compared with WKY in both young (+ 67%) and adult (+ 43%) rats.

3. Small-intestinal sodium absorption was equal in young SHR and WKY, but significantly greater net sodium absorption was found in the ileum of adult SHR. In contrast, net sodium absorption was reduced from the colon of both young and adult SHR.

4. In adult SHR, the colonic transepithelial short-circuit current (Isc) and the transepithelial potential difference (PD) were significantly higher, whereas the transepithelial membrane resistance (Rm) was significantly lower than in WKY. There was an identical drop in Isc in both strains when luminal sodium was replaced by choline. These data cannot be explained by increased electrogenic cation (sodium) absorption in the SHR, but would favour chloride secretion.

5. It is suggested that in SHR membrane electrolyte transport abnormalities may also be present in the epithelial cells of the small and large intestine, as have been demonstrated already in blood cells by several investigators. The SHR may become an interesting experimental animal model for the study of generalized ion transport disorders.

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