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Kidney Int. 1976 Apr;9(4):333-43.

Isohydric regulation of plasma potassium by bicarbonate in the rat.


pH and bicarbonate affect many metabolic reactions but each may change independently. To study bicarbonate's effect onplasma potassium, blood bicarbonate in normal, hypokalemic or hyperkalemic rats was either maintained constant, lowered by hydrochloric acid or raised by sodium bicarbonate administraion. Blood pH was maintained constant by changing PCO2. In normokalemia lowering bicarbonate increased plasma potassium 2.0mEq above values obtained in the other groups. To eliminate urinary potassium losses, experiments were also performed in rats with bilateral ureteral ligation. Again, plasma potassium concentration rose significantly more in the lowered bicarbonate group. Similarly, in hypokalemia, plasma potassium rose 1.2 and 0.4mEq in the lowered and unchanged groups, but fell 0.2mEq/liter in the elevated group. Differences could not be ascribed to renal potassium losses as potassium excretion was essentially zero in each group. In hyperkalemia, plasma potassium concentration remained elevated for 150 min in the lowered bicarbonate group but fell 1.3 and 2.0mEq in the unchanged and elevated groups, respectively. Urinary potassium losses in the three groups were statistically identical. In all experiments blood pH was maintained unchanged during the experiment. The data show that bicarbonate, independent of blood pH, alters transcellular potassium distribution suggesting the usefulness of bicarbonate therapy in hyperkalemia even at a compensated blood pH.

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