Renal handling of sodium in the nephrotic syndrome

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In the nephrotic syndrome abnormal sodium and water retention occurs at the kidney level that ultimately causes expansion of interstitial volume and edema. The mechanisms and factors involved remain ill defined. The traditional view has considered hypovolemia, due to urinary protein losses and decreased oncotic pressure, as the afferent stimulus of a complex pathway of responses that come together to enhance reabsorption of sodium and water along the nephron. However, given the fact that only a minority of nephrotic patients have low plasma volume, it has been hypothesized that sodium retention by the kidney is a primary phenomenon occurring in response to intrarenal rather than systemic mechanisms. Experimental evidence is available to support this possibility, and indicates that distal nephron sites are involved in avid sodium retention in the nephrotic syndrome. Several studies have been designed to establish the role of neurohumoral mediators, including the renin-angiotensin- aldosterone axis and sympathetic nervous system. These data suggest that although activation of these systems may contribute to salt retention, they may be minor factors in this process. Recently, attention has focused on atrial natriuretic peptides (ANP), which increase sodium and water excretion in experimental animals and humans. A markedly blunted natriuretic and diuretic response to the systemic infusion of ANP has been reported in the nephrotic syndrome. A defect in the number and affinity of receptor binding sites for the peptide as well as in the level of intracellular cyclic guanosine monophosphate, the second messenger of ANP, has recently been investigated. In this review, we address the renal handling of sodium in the nephrotic syndrome and focus specifically on the tubular insensitivity to the natriuretic action of ANP, which could play a crucial role in initiating the formation of edema in this condition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-421
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Nephrology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1993


  • Atrial natriuretic peptide
  • Edema
  • Natriuresis
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Plasma volume
  • Renin-angiotensin system
  • Sodium balance
  • Tubular reabsorption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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