Digoxin amplifies the effects of deoxycorticosterone acetate (DOCA) in intact water-drinking rats: implications for the mechanism of DOCA hypertension?

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IntroductionAn increase in digitalis-like substances has been reported in deoxycorticosterone acetate (DOCA)-salt hypertensive rats. We hypothesized that the role of saline and unilateral nephrectomy in DOCA hypertension may be due to stimulation of endogenous digitalis-like substances.MethodsWe investigated the effects of digoxin and DOCA alone and in combination in intact rats drinking water. Forty male Sprague-Dawley rats were used (body weight 223–298 g).ResultsNeither digoxin (40 $mUg/kg per day, by gavage, for 35 days, n = 10) nor DOCA (30mg/kg twice a week, subcutaneously, for 5 weeks, n = 10) caused a consistent increase in blood pressure in intact rats drinking water. In contrast, combined digoxin and DOCA administration (n = 10) increased systolic blood pressure from day 18 of treatment onwards, to a maximum at day 34 compared with sham-treated rats (n = 10). There were no consistent changes in water intake, urine volume, urinary sodium or potassium excretion, or plasma sodium or potassium concentration with digoxin treatment. DOCA increased water intake and urine volume, and caused an initial decrease in urinary sodium excretion, but no change in urinary potassium excretion or plasma sodium concentration. Plasma potassium excretion was lower in DOCA- than sham-treated rats.ConclusionCombined digoxin and DOCA administration in intact rats drinking water increased blood pressure significantly compared with either drug alone, raising the possibility that the mechanism by which nephrectomy and salt loading contribute to DOCA hypertension in the rat might be through stimulation of endogenous digitalis-like substances.

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