1. To investigate mechanisms of extrarenal buffering in uraemic acidosis, we studied the effects of the carbonic anhydrase inhibitor, acetazolamide, in normal subjects and in patients with end-stage kidney disease on maintenance haemodialysis with virtually no urine output.

2. Acetazolamide (500 mg) was administered daily for 7 days, after pretreatment for 1 month with 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (n = 12) or placebo (n = 12); only placebo was administered to a third group (n = 12) of haemodialysis patients. In addition, acetazolamide was administered to normal control subjects (n = 12).

3. Treatment with acetazolamide resulted in a more marked metabolic acidosis in haemodialysis patients than in normal control subjects and the effect in haemodialysis patients was attenuated by prior treatment with 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D.

4. The administration of acetazolamide to haemodialysis patients led to an increase in serum inorganic phosphorus, bone isoenzyme of alkaline phosphatase and parathyroid hormone, and a reduction in serum calcium, whereas acetazolamide had no effect on these variables in normal subjects. In contrast, in the haemodialysis patients previously treated with 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, acetazolamide increased serum inorganic phosphorus, bone isoenzyme of alkaline phosphatase, parathyroid hormone and serum calcium.

5. We hypothesize that the metabolic acidosis induced by acetazolamide in haemodialysis patients may result from interference with the mechanisms of extrarenal buffering.

6. As parathyroid hormone, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D and carbonic anhydrase are thought to be involved in bone buffering, we suggest that the marked acidosis seen in haemodialysis patients treated with acetazolamide may be due to impaired parathyroid hormone-mediated bone buffering.

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