Background: The epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) plays an important role in the regulation of blood pressure by modulating Na reabsorption in the kidney. Dahl salt-sensitive rats on high-salt diet develop severe hypertension, and high-salt diet has been reported to stimulate ENaC mRNA expression in the kidney abnormally in Dahl salt-sensitive rats despite a suppressed plasma aldosterone concentration (PAC).
Methods: We investigated the effect of high-salt diet on ENaC protein expression in Dahl salt-resistant and Dahl salt-sensitive rats, and examined the effect of amiloride (5 mg/kg per day) and eplerenone (0.125% diet) on blood pressure and renal injury in Dahl salt-sensitive rats.
Results: Dahl salt-sensitive rats developed hypertension and renal damage following 4 weeks of treatment with high-salt diet. Although PAC and kidney aldosterone content were all suppressed by the high-salt diet in Dahl salt-sensitive rats, both beta and gammaENaC mRNA expression and protein abundance were significantly increased. The molecular weight shift of gammaENaC from 85 to 70 kDa, an indication of ENaC activation, was clearly increased in Dahl salt-sensitive rats on high-salt diet compared with the low-salt group or Dahl salt-resistant rats on high-salt diet. Four weeks of treatment with amiloride, but not eplerenone, significantly ameliorated hypertension and kidney injury in Dahl salt-sensitive rats fed high-salt diet, suggesting aberrant aldosterone-independent activation of ENaC.
Conclusion: These results suggest that inappropriate expression and activation of ENaC could be one of the underlying mechanisms by which Dahl salt-sensitive rats develop salt-sensitive hypertension and organ damage, and indicate a therapeutic benefit of amiloride in salt-sensitive hypertension where ENaC is excessively activated.