1. Metabolic acidosis invariably accompanies chronic renal failure, and short periods of metabolic acidosis cause renal growth and proteinuria in normal rats. Rates of ammoniagenesis are increased in chronic renal failure, and it has been suggested that this contributes to disease progression. This study assessed (i) whether prolonged acidosis causes chronic renal injury in the normal kidney and (ii) whether abrogation of acidosis slows disease progression in the remnant kidney.

2. Metabolic acidosis was induced in normal rats by dietary hydrochloric acid. Urinary excretion of total protein, lysozyme and albumin increased, peaking at week 8 but returning to baseline by week 14. At killing after 14 weeks, kidney weights, glomerular filtration rates and serum creatinine were the same in both groups, but kidney/body weight and kidney/heart weight ratios were greater in the acidotic group. All kidneys were normal by light microscopy.

3. Rats subjected to five-sixths nephrectomy were given sufficient dietary bicarbonate to abolish uraemic acidosis, and their outcome was compared with that of non-alkalinized remnants (controls). Proteinuria, glomerular filtration rates, blood pressure, histological injury and time to the development of terminal uraemia were no better in bicarbonate-supplemented animals than in controls.

4. These data demonstrate that metabolic acidosis neither causes nor exacerbates chronic renal injury. We conclude that the treatment of uraemic acidosis is unlikely to influence disease progression in patients with chronic renal failure.

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