Male gender increases sensitivity to proteinuria induced by mild NOS inhibition in rats: role of sex hormones

Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2000 Oct;279(4):F664-70. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.2000.279.4.F664.


Men are at greater risk for renal injury than women. We studied whether male rats are more sensitive to the hypertensive and proteinuric effects of chronic nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibition than female rats. In addition, we studied whether androgens or estrogens are responsible for differences in sensitivity to proteinuria induced by chronic NOS inhibition. Females and males were treated with 10, 20, 30, and 100 mg/l N(omega)-nitro-L-arginine (L-NNA) during 24 wk. Systolic blood pressure (SBP) and proteinuria were measured regularly and compared with time-control measurements in control females and males. In females and males treatment with 10 mg/l L-NNA had no effect on SBP or proteinuria. Treatment with 20, 30, and 100 mg/l L-NNA resulted in a dose-dependent increase in SBP that was similar in males and females. However, females treated with 20 and 30 mg/l L-NNA were resistant to the development of proteinuria: maximum values were 16 +/- 7 and 46 +/- 21, respectively, vs. 16 +/- 3 mg/day in controls, whereas males treated with those doses showed an increase in proteinuria [139 +/- 35 (P < 0.05) and 318 +/- 82 (P < 0.01), respectively, vs. 55 +/- 11 mg/day in controls]. Treatment with 100 mg/l L-NNA increased proteinuria similarly in both females and males. To study the role of sex hormones in differences in sensitivity to proteinuria induced by mild chronic NOS inhibition, treatment with 20 mg/l L-NNA was repeated in ovariectomized (Ovx) and orchidectomized rats. Ovariectomy did not affect the increase in SBP caused by 20 mg/l L-NNA, but, in contrast to intact females, this dose of L-NNA did cause Ovx rats to develop proteinuria (51 +/- 16 vs. 16 +/- 7 mg/day in control Ovx rats; P < 0.05). Orchidectomy completely prevented the increased SBP as well as proteinuria induced by 20 mg/l L-NNA in male rats. In conclusion, male rats are more sensitive than female rats to develop proteinuria induced by mild chronic NOS inhibition. Estrogens provide some protection in females, whereas androgens are responsible for the increased sensitivity of male rats to proteinuria induced by mild chronic NOS inhibition. Risk factors associated with a compromised nitric oxide system may be more detrimental to the kidney in men than in women.

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / physiology
  • Animals
  • Enzyme Inhibitors*
  • Estrogens / physiology
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / physiology*
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Nitroarginine*
  • Orchiectomy
  • Ovariectomy
  • Proteinuria / chemically induced*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sex Characteristics*


  • Androgens
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Estrogens
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Nitroarginine
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase