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Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2011 Aug;301(2):F344-54. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00626.2010. Epub 2011 May 18.

Both high and low maternal salt intake in pregnancy alter kidney development in the offspring.

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Institute of Pathology, Univ. of Heidelberg, Germany.


In humans, low glomerular numbers are related to hypertension, cardiovascular, and renal disease in adult life. The present study was designed 1) to explore whether above- or below-normal dietary salt intake during pregnancy influences nephron number and blood pressure in the offspring and 2) to identify potential mechanisms in kidney development modified by maternal sodium intake. Sprague-Dawley rats were fed low (0.07%)-, intermediate (0.51%)-, or high (3.0%)-sodium diets during pregnancy and lactation. The offspring were weaned at 4 wk and subsequently kept on a 0.51% sodium diet. The kidney structure was assessed at postnatal weeks 1 and 12 and the expression of proteins of interest at term and at week 1. Blood pressure was measured in male offspring by telemetry from postnatal month 2 to postnatal month 9. The numbers of glomeruli at weeks 1 and 12 were significantly lower and, in males, telemetrically measured mean arterial blood pressure after month 5 was higher in offspring of dams on a high- or low- compared with intermediate-sodium diet. A high-salt diet was paralleled by higher concentrations of marinobufagenin in the amniotic fluid and an increase in the expression of both sprouty-1 and glial cell-derived neutrophic factor in the offspring's kidney. The expression of FGF-10 was lower in offspring of dams on a low-sodium diet, and the expression of Pax-2 and FGF-2 was lower in offspring of dams on a high-sodium diet. Both excessively high and excessively low sodium intakes during pregnancy modify protein expression in offspring kidneys and reduce the final number of glomeruli, predisposing the risk of hypertension later in life.

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