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To investigate the regulatory mechanisms of membrane functions in hypertension, we examined the relationship between endogenous Na+, K+-adenosine triphosphatase (ATPase) inhibitor (digitalis-like factor; DLF) and erythrocyte membrane fluidity in essential hypertension by means of an electron spin resonance (ESR) and spin labelling methods.Erythrocytes were obtained from patients with essential hypertension and normotensive subjects, and the ESR spectra for a fatty acid spin label agent (5-nitroxide stearate) incorporated into the erythrocyte membranes were studied. The DLF content in plasma was expressed as the inhibitory potency of dog kidney Na+, K+-ATPase activity in vitro.The values of outer hyperfine splitting and of order parameter in ESR spectra were significantly higher in hypertensive patients than in normotensive subjects. This finding shows that the erythrocyte membrane fluidity may be decreased in essential hypertension. The level of plasma DLF content was greater in hypertensive patients than in normotensive subjects and was significantly correlated with the decrease in erythrocyte membrane fluidity.These results suggest that the decrease in erythrocyte membrane fluidity may be partially dependent upon the increased plasma DLF content.