1. Aldosterone is suppressed by sodium loading. We studied the contribution of this decrease in plasma aldosterone to the natriuresis after acute sodium loading in healthy volunteers.

2. Two litres of saline [0.9% (w/v) NaCl] were infused during the second hour of a 6 h infusion of aldosterone (3 pmol min−1 kg−1) or placebo in eight healthy young men. On the placebo day, plasma aldosterone decreased by 30 min after the start of saline infusion and remained suppressed. During aldosterone infusion, plasma aldosterone was maintained at around 400 pmol/l.

3. Urinary sodium excretion, lithium clearance and plasma atrial natriuretic peptide increased and plasma renin activity decreased after saline infusion, whether or not aldosterone was infused. However, from 60 to 240 min after saline infusion, natriuresis was significantly less during aldosterone infusion than on the placebo day. In addition, saline loading led to a progressive increase in the ratio of sodium clearance to lithium clearance, used as an index of the fractional distal tubular rejection of sodium, and in the ratio of urinary sodium to potassium. These increases were prevented by the infusion of aldosterone.

4. This study suggests that there are differences in the mechanisms determining the early and the later responses to an acute sodium load. Suppression of aldosterone may explain much of the later increase in natriuresis after saline infusion. In addition, the results are consistent with a role for atrial natriuretic peptide in the immediate increase in sodium excretion after saline loading.

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