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Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2013 Aug 1;305(3):F390-5. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00008.2013. Epub 2013 May 15.

Early life stress sensitizes the renal and systemic sympathetic system in rats.

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Section of Experimental Medicine, CB 2200, 1459 Laney Walker Blvd., Dept. of Medicine, Georgia Regents University, Augusta, GA 30912, USA.


We hypothesized that maternal separation (MS), an early life stress model, induces a sensitization of the sympathetic system. To test this hypothesis, we evaluated the renal and systemic sympathetic system in 12- to 14-wk-old male control or MS rats with the following parameters: 1) effect of renal denervation on conscious renal filtration capacity, 2) norepinephrine (NE) content in key organs involved in blood pressure control, and 3) acute systemic pressor responses to adrenergic stimulation or ganglion blockade. MS was performed by separating pups from their mothers for 3 h/day from day 2 to 14; controls were nonhandled littermates. Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) was examined in renal denervated (DnX; within 2 wk) or sham rats using I¹²⁵-iothalamate plasma clearance. MS-DnX rats showed significantly increased GFR compared with MS-SHAM rats (3.8 ± 0.4 vs. 2.4 ± 0.2 ml/min, respectively, P < 0.05), whereas DnX had no effect in controls, indicating that renal nerves regulate GFR in MS rats. NE content was significantly increased in organ tissues from MS rats (P < 0.05, n = 6-8), suggesting a sensitization of the renal and systemic sympathetic system. Conscious MS rats displayed a significantly greater increase in mean arterial pressure (MAP) in response to NE (2 μg/kg ip) and a greater reduction in MAP in response to mecamylamine (2 mg/kg ip, P < 0.05, n = 4) monitored by telemetry, indicating that MS rats exhibit exaggerated responses to sympathetic stimulation. In conclusion, these data indicate that MS sensitizes the renal and systemic sympathetic system ultimately impairing blood pressure regulation.


denervation; early life stress; glomerular filtration rate; maternal separation

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