Salt intake and depletion increase circulating levels of endogenous ouabain in normal men

Paolo Manunta, Bruce P. Hamilton, John M. Hamlyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


High-salt diets elevate circulating Na+ pump inhibitors, vascular resistance, and blood pressure. Ouabain induces a form of hypertension mediated via the α2-Na+ pump isoform and the calcium influx mode of the vascular sodium calcium exchanger (NCX). Whereas elevated levels of an endogenous ouabain (EO) and NCX have been implicated in salt-sensitive hypertension, acute changes in sodium balance do not affect plasma EO. This study investigated the impact of longer-term alterations in sodium balance on the circulating levels and renal clearance of EO in normal humans. Thirteen normal men consumed a normal diet, high-salt diet, and hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ), each for 5-day periods to alter sodium balance. EO and other humoral and urinary variables were determined daily. On a normal diet, urinary sodium excretion (140 ± 16 meq/day), plasma EO (0.43 ± 0.08 nmol/l) and urinary EO excretion (1.04 ± 0.13 nmol/day) were at steady state. On the 3rd day of a high-salt diet, urine sodium excretion (315 ± 28 meq/day), plasma EO (5.8 ± 2.2 nmol/l), and the urinary EO excretion (1.69 ± 0.27 nmol/day) were significantly increased, while plasma renin activity and aldosterone levels were suppressed. The salt-evoked increase in plasma EO was greater in older individuals, in subjects whose baseline circulating EO was higher, and in those with low renal clearance. During HCTZ, body weight decreased and plasma renin activity, aldosterone, and EO (1.71 ± 0.77 nmol/l) rose, while urinary EO excretion remained within the normal range (1.44 ± 0.31 nmol/day). Blood pressure fell in one subject during HCTZ. HPLC of the plasma extracts showed one primary peak of EO immunoreactivity with a retention time equivalent to ouabain. High-salt diets and HCTZ raise plasma EO by stimulating EO secretion, and a J-shaped curve relates sodium balance and EO in healthy men. Under normal dietary conditions, ∼98% of the filtered load of EO is reabsorbed by the kidney, and differences in the circulating levels of EO are strongly influenced by secretion and urinary excretion of EO. The dramatic impact of high-salt diets on plasma EO is consistent with its proposed role as a humoral vasoconstrictor that links salt intake with vascular function in hypertension.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006


  • Cardiac glycosides
  • Circulation
  • Hypertension
  • Inhibitor
  • Sodium
  • Sodium pump

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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