1. Afferent nerve fibres sensitive to changes in the renal chemical environment have been found in the rat. To verify the existence of these fibres in the rabbit and their response pattern, afferent renal nerve activity was recorded during pelvic perfusions with NaCl solutions at different concentrations.
2. The experiments were carried out in 13 anaesthetized rabbits. Arterial pressure from a femoral catheter and afferent renal nerve activity from the distal stump of a cut renal nerve bundle were recorded. Three catheters were inserted into the renal pelvis to measure pelvic pressure, to allow pelvic perfusions at constant rates and to drain pelvic fluids.
3. After a control period, the pelvis was perfused with physiological saline (0.14 mol/l for 2 min), followed by one of a series of solutions containing increasing concentrations of NaCl (0.5, 0.75, 1.0 and 1.5 mol/l for 2 min). Pelvic perfusion was performed both at a low (0.2 ml/min) and a high (0.8 ml/min) flow rate for each solution tested.
4. In all animals arterial pressure was not modified during pelvic perfusions. Physiological saline did not change afferent renal nerve activity at the low perfusion rate, but it significantly increased afferent renal nerve activity and pelvic pressure at the high rate. Hypertonic NaCl solutions caused progressive increases in afferent renal nerve activity at both perfusion rates, and these effects were larger at the high perfusion rate.
5. These data demonstrate, in the rabbit, the existence of renal afferent nerves sensitive to discrete changes in pelvic ionic or osmotic concentration. The neural response is enhanced when renal mechano- and chemo-receptors are simultaneously activated.