Background: Chronic hypoxia in rats produces polycythemia, and the plasma fraction falls, reducing renal plasma flow (RPF) relative to renal blood flow (RBF). Polycythemia also causes increased blood viscosity, which tends to reduce RBF and renal oxygen delivery. We studied how renal regulation of electrolyte balance and renal tissue oxygenation (which is crucial for erythropoietin regulation) are maintained in rats during hypoxic exposure.
Methods: Rats of two strains with differing polycythemic responses, with surgically implanted catheters in the urinary bladder, femoral artery, and left renal and right external jugular veins, were exposed to a simulated high altitude (0.5 atm) for 0, 1, 3, 14, and 30 days, after which RPF (para-aminohippurate clearance), glomerular filtration rate (GFR, polyfructosan clearance), hematocrit and blood gases were measured, and RBF, renal vascular resistance and hindrance (resistance/viscosity), renal oxygen delivery, and renal oxygen consumption were calculated.
Results: During chronic hypoxia RBF increased, but RPF decreased because of the polycythemia. GFR remained normal because the filtration fraction (FF) increased. Renal vascular resistance decreased, and renal vascular hindrance decreased more markedly. Renal oxygen delivery and consumption both increased.
Conclusions: During chronic hypoxia GFR homeostasis apparently took precedence over RBF autoregulation. The large decrease in renal vascular hindrance suggested that renal vascular remodeling contributes to GFR regulation. The reduced hindrance also prevented a vicious cycle of increasing polycythemia and blood viscosity, decreasing RBF, and increasing renal hypoxia and erythropoietin release.