Connection Elucidated Between Obesity, Salt Sensitivity and High Blood Pressure

(Science Daily) One way obese people become salt sensitive and hypertensive has been identified by Medical College of Georgia researchers.

They’ve documented a chain of events in which excess inflammatory factors resulting from excess fat cause the body to retain more sodium and, consequently, more fluid and higher blood pressure, said Dr. Yanbin Dong, geneticist and cardiologist at MCG’s Georgia Prevention Institute.

Their findings point toward a biomarker in the urine that could one day help physicians identify the most effective therapy for these patients.

“It’s well established that obesity increases inflammation, salt sensitivity and high blood pressure,” said Dong, corresponding author on the study in the American Journal of Physiology Regulatory — Integrative and Comparative Physiology. But there were dots that needed connecting.

Dong’s team outlined the process that appears to start with fat producing more inflammatory factors, such as interleukin-6, or IL-6.

When he and his colleagues exposed mouse kidney cells to IL-6, they found increased production of prostasin, a protease, which typically inhibits a protein’s action by cutting it. But when prostasin cut fellow protein ENaC it increased its activity and so salt reabsorption.

ENaC, or epithelial sodium channel, is the last of many kidney channels that determines how much sodium to excrete. Although ENaC calls the shots on a relatively small amount of sodium, it’s significant in a system that is all about balance, Dong said. “It’s very special; there are not too many proteases like that. We found that in cells fed IL-6, ENaC gets activated and the cells take in more sodium. It is the last step of your salt reabsorption.”

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