To determine whether sympathetic hyperactivity of hypothalamic origin contributes to keep blood pressures high in spontaneous hypertension, aortic pressures and sympathetic nerve spike potentials were recorded during electrical stimulation of the posterior hypothalamus in urethane-anesthetized normotensive or hypertensive rats. Basal sympathetic nerve activity was higher in spontaneously hypertensive rats than in either normotensive or deoxycorticosterone acetate-salt hypertensive ones even before stimulation began. Blood pressure elevations produced by hypothalamic stimulation were always preceded by substantial increases in amplitude and rate of neural firing. Changes in amplitude could not be quantified, but rates of neural firing accelerated much more in spontaneous hypertensives than in normotensives during stimulation with 50- and 100-μA currents. Similar differences between deoxycorticosterone acetate-salt hypertensives and either normotensives or spontaneous hypertensives were not statistically significant. Nerve activity invariably became quiescent immediately after hypothalamic stimulation was discontinued, and recovery from this poststimulatory inhibition was faster in spontaneously hypertensive than in normotensive rats. Although spontaneous hypertensives generally also had stronger pressor responses to various sympathomimetic stimuli, responses to hypothalamic stimulation were enhanced to a greater extent than those to either norepinephrine or sympathetic nerve stimulation. Because this selectivity indicates participation of mechanisms other than augmented cardiovascular reactivity, further enhancement of responsiveness to hypothalamic stimuli was attributed to the associated increase in sympathetic nerve firing. These results are in accord with the hypothesis that the blood pressure elevation in rats with established spontaneous hypertension is a result, at least in part, of sympathetic hyperactivity emanating from the posterior hypothalamus.


Kazuo Takeda, Ruben D. Buñag


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