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J Clin Invest. Dec 1983; 72(6): 2115–2124.
PMCID: PMC437052

Defect in the sodium-modulated tissue responsiveness to angiotensin II in essential hypertension.


In normal subjects, dietary sodium intake modulates renovascular, adrenal, and pressor responses to infused angiotensin II (AII). To examine the hypothesis that this modulation is abnormal in some patients with essential hypertension, we studied 18 hypertensives and 9 normal subjects twice--during dietary sodium restriction and during loading. Paraaminohippurate (PAH) clearance was used to assess renal plasma flow. AII was infused in graded doses (0.3-3.0 ng/kg per min). Plasma aldosterone, cortisol, renin activity, AII, sodium, potassium, and PAH clearance were measured at the onset and end of each AII dose. During dietary sodium repletion, eight of the subjects with essential hypertension showed a normal renovascular response (greater than 125 ml/min per 1.73 m2) to AII infusion (3 ng/kg per min). The decrement in renal blood flow in these normal responders (NR) was 168 +/- 10, which was comparable to the range in normotensive subjects (206 +/- 25 ml/min per 1.73 m2). All of the remaining hypertensive patients, designated abnormal responders (AbR), had lower (less than 125) renal blood flow responses to the same dose of infused AII (mean decrement: 84 +/- 11 ml/min per 1.73 m2) compared with the NR and normotensive subjects. Renal blood flow responses to all AII doses were statistically greater on a high-vs.-low salt diet in the NR (P less than 0.001, chi-square) and normotensives (P = 0.004, chi-square) but sodium intake had no effect on this response in the AbR. Basal renal blood flow in NR increased significantly (P less than 0.001, paired t test) with dietary sodium repletion, from 491 +/- 36 (low salt) to 602 +/- 40 ml/min per 1.73 m2 (high salt), but was almost identical in the AbR on differing dietary sodium intakes (429 +/- 24 vs. 425 +/- 26 ml/min per 1.73 m2). The adrenal responses to sodium intake and infused AII also differed in the two subgroups. In the NR, the adrenal response to AII was significantly greater (P = 0.011, Wilcoxon signed rank test) after sodium restriction. In contrast, there was no significant difference in the aldosterone response to AII infusion between the low and high sodium diets in the AbR. Thus, a substantial subgroup of essential hypertensives has an abnormality in responsiveness to AII in two systems central to volume homeostasis: the kidney and adrenal. They fail to modulate their renal blood flow and aldosterone responses to AII with changes in dietary sodium intake. Moreover, basal renal blood flow does not increase appropriately with increased sodium intake. These abnormalities, which may be due to an increased local production of AII or a defect in the AII receptors in these three target tissues, could contribute to the elevated blood pressure.

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Selected References

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