SK Channel Dysfunction in the Hypothalamic Paraventricular Nucleus Contributes to Sympathoexcitation in Dahl Salt-Sensitive Rats

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Salt-sensitive hypertension is characterized by marked activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Previous studies have consistently demonstrated that increased excitability or activity of pre-sympathetic neurons in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) contribute to the increased blood pressure and sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) in salt-sensitive hypertension; however, the underlying mechanisms have not been fully elucidated. Small conductance calcium-activated potassium (SK) channels act as negative feedback regulators of neuronal excitability in PVN neurons, and inhibition of SK channel function in the PVN is known to augment SNA and arterial blood pressure. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that reduced SK channel function in the PVN contributes to sympathoexcitation in Dahl salt-sensitive rats fed a high salt (HS, 4%) diet compared to a normal salt (NS, 0.4%) diet. Sympathoexcitatory responses to bilateral microinjection of the SK channel blocker apamin into the PVN were assessed in anesthetized 12-14-week-old male Dahl salt-sensitive rats fed a high salt (n = 7) or a normal salt (n=6) diet for 4 weeks. Baseline mean arterial pressure (MAP) was significantly elevated in rats fed a HS diet compared to NS (HS 129 ± 4 vs. NS 114 ± 4 mmHg, p < 0.05), however baseline heart rate (HR) was not different between groups (HS 411 ± 10 vs. NS 385±13 beats/min, p = 0.07). Bilateral microinjection of apamin (12.5pmol, 50nL) into the PVN significantly increased splanchnic SNA in both HS and NS rats compared to baseline, however responses were significantly attenuated in HS rats compared to NS (HS 97 ± 22% vs. NS 249 ± 57%, p < 0.01). In contrast, increases in MAP in response to PVN microinjection of apamin were similar between HS and NS rats (HS 24±4 vs. NS 29±4 mmHg, p=0.25), whereas HR responses were variable but not significantly different between groups (HS -8.5 ± 9 vs. NS 7.5 ± 7 beats/min, p = 0.11). Next, we utilized qPCR to assess mRNA expression of SK1, SK2, and SK3 channels in PVN tissue from HS (n = 5) and NS (n = 6) rats. Interestingly, there was no significant difference in mRNA levels of either SK1, SK2, or SK3 channels between HS and NS fed rats. In summary, increases in splanchnic SNA due to PVN SK channel blockade with apamin were significantly attenuated in Dahl salt-sensitive rats fed a HS diet, whereas there was no difference in SK channel expression between rats fed a HS vs. NS diet. These results suggest that dysfunction of SK channels in the PVN, but not decreased expression, contributes to sympathoexcitation Dahl salt-sensitive rats fed a HS diet.

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FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology