Physiological disposal of the potential alkali load in diet of the rat: steps to achieve acid-base balance

Am J Physiol. 1998 Jun;274(6):F1037-44. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.1998.274.6.F1037.


The purpose of this study was to provide a better understanding of the physiological role of endogenous net organic acid production in rats consuming their usual diet. Balance studies were performed over 24 h, and urine was collected in the day and night portions of the diurnal cycle. A supplemented low-electrolyte diet(LED) was fed to determine whether urinary organic anions were identical to those in the diet. A titration procedure was developed to determine the pK of titratable groups in the urine of rats studied with and without an acid load. Although normal rats excreted net acid (NAE), the latter was inversely related to the amount of food consumed. The rates of excretion of bicarbonate (HCO3), citrate, unmeasured organic anions, and NH+4 were higher in the night portion of the diurnal cycle. NAE rose dramatically when alkali intake was decreased by consuming the LED. Dietary and urinary organic anions were not identical because rats fed the LED supplemented with potassium citrate excreted <10% of this alkali load as citrate and <25% as HCO3. In the 24 h after 3,000 ¿mol NH4Cl was given intraperitoneally, H+ did not appear to be retained, yet NAE rose by only close to 2,000 ¿eq. The rate of excretion of titratable groups with a pK in the 3 to 5 pH range fell by close to 1,000 ¿eq; most of these changes occurred in the first 7 h after NH4Cl was given. We conclude that rat chow provides a large net alkali load. There appear to be two types of endogenous acid production, a form associated with a rise in NAE (e.g., sulfuric acid) and dietary alkali-driven endogenous net acid production, which titrates this alkali. Renal excretion of organic anions makes these acids end products of metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acid-Base Equilibrium / physiology*
  • Ammonium Chloride / administration & dosage
  • Ammonium Chloride / metabolism
  • Animal Feed*
  • Animals
  • Bicarbonates / urine
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Citrates / urine
  • Electrolytes / administration & dosage
  • Hydrogen / urine
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Bicarbonates
  • Citrates
  • Electrolytes
  • Ammonium Chloride
  • Hydrogen