1. The effect of treatment with recombinant human growth hormone on urinary sodium excretion, total body water, the renin-angiotensin system and erythrocyte sodium metabolism was investigated in 16 adults with growth hormone deficiency.
2. Total body water was determined by isotopic dilution, and erythrocyte electrolyte contents were analysed using flame photometry. The rate of sodium influx and the efflux rate constant of sodium were calculated from values of 22Na in erythrocytes in vitro.
3. One week of treatment with recombinant human growth hormone caused a decrease in urinary sodium excretion in 9/10 patients and an increase in erythrocyte sodium content. Total body water, plasma renin activity, angiotensin II concentration and transmembrane sodium transport were unaltered.
4. Six months of treatment with recombinant human growth hormone caused significant increases in total body water, erythrocyte sodium content and sodium transmembrane influx. Plasma renin activity tended to increase, whereas blood pressure and serum sodium and potassium concentrations remained unchanged. After 6 months on recombinant human growth hormone total body water showed a significant negative correlation with plasma renin activity.
5. The enhanced erythrocyte sodium transport, if this reflects what happens in the renal tubular cell, combined with a decrease in urinary sodium excretion, during treatment with recombinant human growth hormone could indicate an increase in tubular sodium reabsorption induced by the hormone. An increased plasma renin activity associated with the lack of blood pressure rise would reinforce sodium and water retention.