1. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of dietary Ca2+ intake on blood pressure and erythrocyte Na+ transport in spontaneously hypertensive rats.
2. Spontaneously hypertensive rats and Wistar-Kyoto rats were fed diets with three different Ca2+ contents, 0.1% (low-Ca2+ diet), 0.6% (normal-Ca2+ diet) and 4.0% (high-Ca2+ diet), between 6 and 20 weeks of age. At 20 weeks of age, the levels of erythrocyte Na+ efflux, as well as Na+ and K+ contents in erythrocytes, were measured.
3. On the low-Ca2+ diet, spontaneously hypertensive rats showed an enhancement of hypertension. Conversely, on the high-Ca2+ diet, they showed an attenuation of the increase in blood pressure. Spontaneously hypertensive rats had a lower erythrocyte Na+ content and increased activity of the Na+ pump at higher levels of dietary Ca2+. Passive Na+ permeability and Na+-K+ co-transport were similar in spontaneously hypertensive rats on the low-, normal- and high-Ca2+ diets. There were no significant differences in blood pressure and in Na+ pump activity in WKY on the three different diets.
4. It is concluded that dietary Ca2+ might affect the regulation of blood pressure in spontaneously hypertensive rats by changing the activity of Na+ pump in the cell membrane.