Both Adrenocorticotrophin (ACTH) and glucocorticoids raise blood pressure in man and animals, but the relationship of this and altered renal function to other cardiovascular variables, and the differences and similarities of the effects of the two agonists have not been fully explained. The present study compares the effects of ACTH (0.5 mg i.m; every 12 h) and cortisol (50 mg orally, every 6 h) in six normal men over a period of 5 days, preceded and followed by control periods of 3 and 2 days, respectively. Plasma cortisol levels were higher during ACTH treatment than during cortisol treatment. Both treatments raised blood pressure significantly and caused a marked antinatriuresis and expansion of extracellular fluid and plasma volume. ACTH also enhanced potassium excretion but this was less obvious for cortisol. Plasma concentrations of atrial natriuretic peptide rose to more than twice the basal level with both treatments.
Both treatments markedly altered renal function. They raised glomerular filtration rate (GFR), i.e. inulin clearance (141% with ACTH; 113% with cortisol) although creatinine clearance was not changed, showing this to be an unreliable index during steroid administration. Filtration fraction (FF) also increased during both treatments, and renal blood flow (RBF) fell, although this achieved statistical significance only during cortisol treatment. Effective renal plasma flow [para-amino hippurate (PAH) clearance] remained unchanged while calculated renal vascular resistance increased. Fractional sodium reabsorption also rose but achieved statistical significance only during ACTH treatment. The similarity of response to treatment suggests that cortisol is largely responsible for the effects of ACTH. The respective roles of the marked increases in sodium retention, changes in fluid volume and vascular reactivity in the increases in blood pressure remain to be defined.
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