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Environ Health Perspect. 1988 Jun;78:77-83.

Chronic effects of lead on the renin-angiotensin system.

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Department of Physiology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109.


This paper reviews the chronic effects of lead exposure on the renin-angiotensin system in experimental animals and human beings. In rats, when lead exposure is begun several weeks after birth in doses that cause blood lead concentrations (PbB) of 30 to 40 micrograms/dL, the result is an increase in basal plasma renin activity (PRA) and renal renin concentration, with no change in the metabolic clearance of renin; this is presumptive evidence for increased renin secretion. PRA is also increased in 1-month-old animals whose exposure to lead (in doses that raise PbB to 9 micrograms/dL) was begun in utero. In contrast, older animals whose exposure was begun in utero manifest no change or a decrease in their PRA and renal renin concentration. Regardless of when the exposure is begun, lead can decrease the plasma concentration of angiotensin II at any given PRA, but the dose required for this effect is highly variable. The hypertension induced by lead exposure is associated with low PRA and a normal angiotensin II/PRA ratio. Chronic human exposure to lead also is associated with highly variable changes in PRA from study to study; it has been reported to be decreased under both basal and stimulated conditions, unchanged, or increased in a manner exponentially related to PbB. The human data are consistent with the tentative hypothesis that lead-exposed persons may have higher PRA than normal during the early periods of modest exposure but normal or depressed PRA following more chronic severe exposures. In a small preliminary study, blood lead concentration was found to be higher in high-renin hypertensive persons than in normotensive persons.

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