In order to test the hypothesis that a circulating inhibitor of the sodium-potassium ATPase pump may cause a concomitant rise in blood pressure and increased sodium excretion, we studied chronic effects of continuous infusion of ouabain, an inhibitor of sodium-potassium ATPase, for up to 6 days on systolic blood pressure and urinary sodium excretion in conscious rats. We also evaluated the effect of this substance in rats with hypertension induced by chronic infusion of norepinephrine. Continuous infusion of ouabain (1.2 mg/kg per day) into the jugular vein by an osmotic minipump did not induce any changes in systolic blood pressure and urinary sodium excretion in intact rats on regular diets. Furthermore it did not cause a change in systolic blood pressure in rats drinking 1% NaCl, and in unilaterally nephrectomized rats drinking 1% NaCl, when compared with vehicle-infused animals. When the same dose of ouabain was administered simultaneously with 1.8 mg/kg per day norepinephrine infused intraperitoneally by another osmotic minipump in conscious rats, systolic blood pressure rose on day 1 to only 129.3 ±2.8 mmHg compared with the rise to 145.0 ± 2.0 mmHg when norepinephrine alone was infused (P < 0.01). The antihypertensive effect of ouabain was sustained for the entire experimental period lasting for 6 days and was not associated with any changes in urinary sodium excretion. The administration of ouabain to rats made hypertensive by a 3-day infusion of norepinephrine, returned the blood pressure to control levels, and the antihypertensive effect was sustained throughout the experimental period lasting a further 3 days and was not associated with any changes in urinary sodium excretion. These results indicate that chronic inhibition of sodium-potassium ATPase by ouabain did not induce any disturbances in blood pressure regulation and sodium metabolism. It also suggests that ouabain may enhance reflex nerve activity to attenuate the pressor response to norepinephrine.
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