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Hypertension. 2008 Nov;52(5):932-7. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.108.118935. Epub 2008 Sep 8.

Excess dietary salt alters angiotensinergic regulation of neurons in the rostral ventrolateral medulla.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40536-0298, USA.


Excess dietary salt intake contributes to or exacerbates some forms of hypertension by increasing sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) and arterial blood pressure (ABP) through angiotensin II (Ang II) type 1 receptor activation in the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM). Despite this interaction among dietary salt, Ang II, and the RVLM, no studies have directly examined whether dietary salt by itself alters Ang II-dependent responses and regulation of RVLM neurons, SNA, and ABP. Therefore, the present study directly tested this hypothesis. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were fed normal chow and given access to water or 0.9% NaCl solution for 14 days. Unilateral injection of Ang II (0.6, 6, and 60 pmol) into the RVLM produced a significantly greater increase in renal SNA and mean ABP of rats drinking 0.9% NaCl versus water. However, dietary salt did not alter mRNA levels of RVLM Ang II type 1a receptors or the SNA and ABP responses to stimulation of the dorsolateral funinculus. Additional experiments demonstrate that blockade of RVLM Ang II type 1 receptors significantly reduced renal SNA, splanchnic SNA, and mean ABP of rats drinking 0.9% NaCl but not water. Blockade of iontotropic glutamate receptors had no effect. Altogether, these findings suggest that elevated dietary salt enhances the sympathoexcitatory actions of Ang II in the RVLM via changes in the intrinsic properties of RVLM neurons. Moreover, elevated dietary salt intake differentially affects the tonic activity of the peripheral versus brain RVLM Ang II type 1 receptors to regulate baseline SNA and ABP.

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