Chronic low-dose infusions of dexamethasone in rats: effects on blood pressure, body weight and plasma atrial natriuretic peptide

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Glucocorticoid-induced hypertension in rats has been studied using long-term, low-dose dexamethasone treatment. Dose-related increases in systolic blood pressure were achieved, without loss in body weight, with subcutaneous continuous infusions of 1, 2 and 5 μg dexamethasone per day, respectively, for 4 weeks. Rats treated with 10 μg dexamethasone per day lost weight at a rate of 10 g per week. Lower doses caused a significant reduction in weight gain compared with controls. Renin, aldosterone, plasma sodium and potassium concentrations were unaffected by dexamethasone treatment. Plasma atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) concentrations were deceased by 40–50% by dexamethasone. These decreases were negatively correlated with increases in systolic blood pressure and haematocrit. Glucocorticoid-induced decreases in ANP contrast with ANP increases in response to mineralocorticoid treatment in rats with deoxycorticosterone-induced hypertension. Plasma concentrations of the endogenous glucocorticoid, corticosterone, were suppressed to the same very low levels by 5 and 10 μg dexamethasone per day; 1 and 2 μg doses were less effective. Unlike mineralocorticoid-induced hypertension, the pressor effects of dexamethasone were ameliorated but not abolished by dietary sodium restriction and were unaffected by sodium loading. Two micrograms of dexamethasone reduced plasma ANP in rats on either high- or low-sodium diets by 29 and 34%, respectively. We conclude that low-dose infusions (<5 μg/day) of dexamethasone are suitable for studying glucocorticoid-induced hypertension without the complications of weight loss that have been reported by others or of the mineralocorticoid-like side effects which endogenous glucocorticoids may exhibit.

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