The Perceptual Characteristics of Sodium Chloride to Sodium-Depleted Rats

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Abstract

Three experiments assessed potential changes in the rat’s perception of sodium chloride (NaCl) during a state of sodium appetite. In Experiment 1, sodium-sufficient rats licking a range of NaCl concentrations (0.028–0.89M) in 15s trials showed an inverted U-shaped concentration response function peaking at 0.281M. Depleted rats (furosemide) showed an identical function, merely elevated, suggesting altered qualitative or hedonic perception but no change in perceived intensity. In Experiment 2, sodium-depleted rats were tested with NaCl, sodium gluconate, and potassium chloride (KCl; 0.028–0.89M) similar to Experiment 1. KCl was licked at the same rate as water except for a slight elevation at 0.158; sodium gluconate and NaCl were treated similarly, but rats showed more licking for hypertonic sodium gluconate than hypertonic NaCl. Sodium-depleted rats were also tested with NaCl mixed in amiloride (10–300 μM). Amiloride reduced licking but did not alter the shape of the concentration–response function. Collectively, these results suggest that transduction of sodium by epithelial sodium channels (which are blocked by amiloride and are more dominant in sodium gluconate than NaCl transduction) is crucial for the perception of sodium during physiological sodium depletion. In Experiment 3, sodium-deplete rats were tested with NaCl as in Experiment 1 but after taste aversion conditioning to 0.3M NaCl or sucrose. Rats conditioned to avoid NaCl but not sucrose failed to express a sodium appetite, strongly suggesting that NaCl does not undergo a change in taste quality during sodium appetite—rats show no confusion between sucrose and NaCl in this paradigm.

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