1. To investigate endogenous cardiac glycoside-like compounds in plasma and their ability to inhibit the sodium pump, digoxin-like immunoreactivity [digoxin-like immunoreactive substance(s), DL1S] and 86Rb uptake by erythrocytes were measured in plasma extracts from normal adults, hypertensive adults and neonates.

2. DLIS levels in neonate plasma extracts were significantly higher than those found for normotensive or hypertensive adults. No difference was observed between normotensive and hypertensive subjects. DLIS was significantly increased when boiled plasma was extracted.

3. Extracts of boiled neonate and adult plasma inhibited 86Rb uptake. Instead, when boiling was omitted, no detectable inhibition was found in extracts of plasma from normotensive or hypertensive adult subjects. When present, the inhibition resulted from a depression of the ouabain-sensitive (sodium-pump-mediated) component, and, for the boiled neonate plasma only, also of the ouabain-resistant component. When the data from the different groups were pooled, a statistically significant inverse relationship between DLIS and erythrocyte 86Rb uptake was observed. Furthermore, in a subgroup of samples in which determinations were made before and after boiling in the same samples, an inverse correlation was found between changes in DLIS and changes in ouabain-sensitive (but not ouabain-resistant) 86Rb uptake.

4. Plasma extracts incubated with albumin at a physiological concentration significantly decreased (by approximately 20%) the inhibition of 86Rb uptake observed.

5. These findings support the existence of one or more endogenous compounds which both bind to antidigoxin antibodies and inhibit transmembrane cation transport. Part of this inhibition may, however, not involve the sodium pump. Furthermore, this chemically unidentified substance(s) may be bound to plasma proteins which partly reduce its action in vivo.

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