1. Recent evidence suggests that a high salt diet increases bronchial reactivity, but the underlying mechanism is unclear.
2. To determine whether alterations in circulating vasopressin might be responsible, we have studied the effect of an infusion of vasopressin on the airways of six normal and eight asthmatic subjects measuring the response as expiratory flow at 30% of vital capacity (V̇30P) in the normal subjects and as forced expiratory volume in 1s (FEV1) in the asthmatic subjects, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study.
3. Vasopressin, given as an infusion at a rate of 2 i.u./h for 1 h, followed by 4 i.u./h for a further hour, produced plasma concentrations of 12.8 and 17 ng/l, respectively, compared with 2.0 and 2.0 ng/l on placebo.
4. Airway reactivity to histamine was measured after 1 and 2 h as the provocative doses of histamine causing a 40% reduction in V̇30P (PD40V̇30P) in the normal subjects and a 20% reduction in FEV1 (PD20FEV1) in the asthmatic subjects.
5. There was a small increase in PD40V̇30P after both vasopressin and placebo in normal subjects (refractoriness) but no change in PD20FEV1 in the asthmatic subjects.
6. There was no significant difference between vasopressin and placebo in V̇30P or PD40 V̇30P over the 2 h after the drug in the normal subjects or in FEV1 or PD20FEV1 over the 2 h after the drug in the asthmatic subjects.
7. We conclude that alterations in circulating vasopressin are unlikely to be responsible for the increase in bronchial reactivity when dietary salt intake is increased.