1. In minimal change nephrotic syndrome the occurrence of heavy proteinuria can be explained on the basis of a reduction in charge selectivity of the glomerular filtration barrier, and it has been proposed that this might be caused by the neutralization of anionic groups by a circulating polycationic factor.
2. The effects of two polycations, protamine and poly-l-lysine, on the function of the isolated perfused rat kidney have been examined.
3. Poly-l-lysine polymers of relatively high molecular weight (8800 and 17800) induced heavy proteinuria, while simultaneously causing a marked increase in renal vascular resistance and a fall in filtration rate. Protamine (approximate molecular weight 7000) at relatively high concentration induced modest proteinuria in the absence of effects on vascular resistance or filtration rate.
4. A poly-l-lysine polymer of lower molecular weight (3800) did not induce proteinuria. Protamine at a concentration of 40 μg/ml and below did not affect protein excretion either. Both provoked substantial natriuresis. This appeared to be largely due to an effect on the tubular handling of sodium since the filtration rate remained steady while fractional sodium excretion rose markedly.
5. The natriuretic effect of protamine was blocked by heparin, but not by indomethacin or verapamil, suggesting that the mechanism of natriuresis did not depend upon either prostaglandin production or entry of calcium through verapamil-sensitive channels.