1. Chronic Na+,K+-ATPase inhibition with ouabain induces hypertension in the rat. To examine the role of the kidney in this process, the effect of changes in renal perfusion pressure on glomerular filtration rate, renal blood flow and urinary sodium excretion were determined in rats treated intraperitoneally with ouabain (27.8 μg day−1 kg−1 body weight) or vehicle for 6 weeks.

2. After ouabain administration, baseline mean arterial pressure was significantly higher (P < 0.05) in ouabain-treated rats (151 ± 2 mmHg; n = 9) than in control rats (116 ± 4 mmHg; n = 8).

3. At equivalent renal perfusion pressures, glomerular filtration rate was significantly lower (P < 0.05) in ouabain-treated rats compared with control rats. Glomerular filtration rate was 721 ± 73μl/min at 150 mmHg, and fell significantly to 322 ± 64 μl/min at 100 mmHg. In the control group, glomerular filtration rate was well autoregulated. The glomerular filtration rate autoregulatory index was calculated to determine the ability to maintain glomerular filtration rate during changes in renal perfusion pressure (0 reflects perfect autoregulation; >1 reflects the absence of autoregulation). This index was greater in the ouabain group than in the control group (1.54 ± 0.2 compared with 0.29 ± 0.2; P < 0.05). Renal blood flow showed a similar pattern.

4. Absolute urinary sodium excretion rate was less in ouabain-treated rats than in control rats at equivalent renal perfusion pressures. The slope of the relationship between absolute urinary sodium excretion rate and renal perfusion pressure was greater (P < 0.05) in the control group than in the ouabain group (309.1 ± 57.1 compared with 82.1 ± 14.8 μmol min−1 mmHg−1).

5. Thus, chronic inhibition of Na+,K+-ATPase induces less efficient autoregulation of glomerular filtration rate and renal blood flow as well as a rightward shift in the pressure natriuresis relationship, such that a 25–30 mmHg higher renal perfusion pressure is necessary to excrete any given sodium load. These abnormalities may contribute to the development and maintenance of hypertension in this model.

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