Does a nephron deficit in rats predispose to salt-sensitive hypertension?

Kidney Blood Press Res. 2004;27(4):239-47. doi: 10.1159/000079868. Epub 2004 Jul 20.


Aim: This study tested the hypothesis that a nephron deficit predisposes rats to salt-sensitive hypertension in adulthood.

Methods: Female Wistar-Kyoto rats were fed a low (9%) or a normal (20%) protein diet during pregnancy and lactation. Male, birth-weight-matched offspring were paired. One rat from each pair was perfusion fixed at 4 weeks of age and the other rat at 40 weeks of age. Kidneys were removed and nephron number and total renal filtration surface area (FSA) determined using unbiased stereological techniques. The rats that were allowed to grow to adulthood had tail-cuff systolic blood pressure and body weight determined twice weekly. Between 30 and 40 weeks of age, a normal or a high-salt diet was fed to the rats.

Results: The offspring of rats fed the low-protein diet were significantly smaller at birth, and at 4 weeks of age they had a significant reduction in kidney volume, nephron number, and total renal FSA when compared to controls. Tail-cuff systolic blood pressure in the offspring from 4 to 29 weeks of age did not significantly differ between the two groups. Administration of a high-salt diet from 30 to 40 weeks of age led to a significant increase in blood pressure in both dietary treatment groups; however, it was not exacerbated in the rats exposed to the low-protein diet in utero.

Conclusions: Maternal protein restriction in rats did not lead to salt-sensitive hypertension. Nephron endowment and FSA did not correlate with blood pressure in adulthood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birth Weight
  • Blood Pressure
  • Diet, Protein-Restricted
  • Dietary Proteins / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Hypertension, Renal / etiology
  • Hypertension, Renal / pathology*
  • Kidney Glomerulus / growth & development
  • Kidney Glomerulus / pathology
  • Litter Size
  • Male
  • Nephrons / growth & development*
  • Nephrons / pathology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred WKY
  • Sodium, Dietary / pharmacology*
  • Weight Gain


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Sodium, Dietary