The renal medulla and hypertension

Allen W. Cowley, David L. Mattson, Shanhong Lu, Richard J. Roman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

213 Scopus citations


We review evidence supporting the conclusion that renal dysfunction underlies the development of all forms of hypertension in humans and experimental animals. Indexes of global renal function are generally normal in the early stages of most genetic forms of hypertension, but renal function is clearly impaired in long-established hypertension. Studies in our laboratory over the past decade summarized below have established that the renal medulla plays an important role in sodium and water homeostasis and in the long-term control of arterial pressure. Development of implanted optical fibers for measurement of cortical and medullary blood flows with laser- Doppler flowmetry and techniques for delivery of vasoactive compounds into the medullary interstitial space enabled us to examine determinants of medullary flow (nitric oxide, atrial natriuretic peptides, kinins, eicosanoids, vasopressin, renal sympathetic nerves, etc). We have shown in spontaneously hypertensive rats that the initial changes of renal function begin as a reduction of medullary blood flow in the absence of changes of cortical flow. Long-term medullary interstitial infusion of captopril, which preferentially increased medullary blood flow, resulted in a lowering of arterial pressure. In normal Sprague-Dawley rats, selective reduction of medullary flow with medullary interstitial or intravenous infusion of small amounts of N(G)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester resulted in hypertension. These and other studies we review show that although blood flow to the inner renal medulla comprises less than 1% of the total renal blood flow, changes in flow to this region can have a major effect on sodium and water homeostasis and on the long-term control of arterial blood pressure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)663-673
Number of pages11
Issue number4 II
StatePublished - Apr 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • captopril
  • hypertension, renal
  • kidney medulla
  • laser-Doppler flowmetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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