Aldosterone secretion and the mechanism of potassium adaptation in rats

Richard D. McCabe, Manis J. Smith, Terry M. Dwyer

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7 Scopus citations


In order to better understand the cellular mechanism of potassium (K+ adaptation, the sensitivity of aldosterone secretion to acute changes in extracellular K+ concentration was studied in freshly dissected adrenal capsules of rats adapted to diets of high or low K+ content, of rats adapted to low or high sodium (Na+) diets, and also of control rats. in control tissues, the aldosterone secretion from the capsules of an individual animal averages 0.44 ± 0.05 nmol/h, increasing 4.4-fold between 2 and 8 mM K+ but decreasing between 8 and 10 mM K+. Although a high K+ diet increases aldosterone secretion by only 34% at 4 mM K+, the rate of secretion increases 3.7-fold more steeply than control as the K+ concentration increases. This change is equivalent to a parallel 3.1-fold increase in the effective number of T- and L-type calcium (Ca2+) channels, accompanied by a 1.3-fold increase in the K+-insensitive rate of aldosterone secretion. In contrast, after Na+ restriction, aldosterone secretion is about 3 times the control rate for all K+ concentrations tested, equivalent to an increase in the basal rate and the effective number of L-channels. Thus, the alteration in the number of effective T-channels is specific to diets of increased K+ content, not simply an effect of increased secretory capacity. After a low K+ diet, aldosterone secretion is 18% of control at 4 mM K+ and changes little with the K+ concentration, consistent with a 94% to 96% decrease in the effective number of T- and L-channels plus a 77% decrease in the K+-insensitive rate of aldosterone secretion. Similarly, the rate of aldosterone secretion is reduced and shows little sensitivity to changes in extracellular K+ after Na+ repletion. These changes in K+ sensitivity are sufficient to explain the altered serum aldosterone concentrations observed after the high K+ and Na+ diets and the low K+ diet (r = 0.9); however, serum aldosterone is threefold greater than predicted for the low Na+ diet, consistent with the dominance of angiotensin II stimulation during Na+ depletion. In conclusion, adaptations to changes in dietary potassium are primarily due to altering the magnitude of the response to a change in extracellular K+ concentration and are apparently mediated by T- and L-type Ca2+ channels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-313
Number of pages9
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1993


  • adaptation
  • aldosterone
  • calcium channels
  • potassium
  • sodium
  • steroids


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