1.The type 2 isoform of 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, an enzyme which converts cortisol or corticosterone to inactive 11-ketosteroid metabolites, is thought to be responsible for preventing access of endogenous glucocorticoids to mineralocorticoid receptors in the distal nephron; although direct in vivo evidence for this is still lacking. We have examined whether graded inhibition of renal 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activities in vivo results in corresponding changes in urinary electrolyte excretion due to exposure of mineralocorticoid receptors to circulating endogenous glucocorticoids.

2.Anaesthetized rats were infused intravenously with vehicle alone or with one of three doses of carbenoxolone: 0.06, 0.6 or 6 ;mg/h. After measurement of renal electrolyte excretion, the kidneys were snap-frozen in liquid nitrogen and 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activities were measured directly by enzyme assay in the presence of NAD+ or NADP+.

3.A dose-dependent inhibition of renal 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activities was observed: the low, intermediate and high doses of carbenoxolone causing approximately 50%, 80% and > 90% inhibition respectively. Only with the high dose was an effect on renal function observed (decreased fractional Na+ excretion and urinary Na+/K+ ratio).

4.The poor correlation between the extent of inhibition of renal 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase and altered urinary Na+ excretion, apparent at the lower doses of carbenoxolone, suggests either that 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase has considerable functional reserve, or that it may not be the only mechanism determining mineralocorticoid receptor specificity in the distal nephron.

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