Author(s): Blaustein MP
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Abstract Ouabain is a well-known compound but a newly discovered adrenal cortical hormone that plays a role in cell Na+ regulation and in whole body salt and water balance. Ouabain may also be a paracrine hormone and may be secreted by some central nervous system neurons as well as by other types of cells. This article focuses on the cellular mechanisms that underlie the physiological (and pathophysiological) effects of ouabain. Ouabain directly inhibits the plasmalemmal Na+ pump in a variety of cell types. Low ouabain concentrations cause, in the steady state, a modest rise in the cytosolic Na+ concentration but only a minimal decline in membrane potential. All Na+ gradient-dependent processes may thereby be affected, albeit to only a small extent. Most important, however, is the secondary redistribution of Ca2+, mediated by Na(+)-Ca2+ exchange, that should slightly increase the cytosolic free Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]cyt). As a result of Ca2+ sequestration in intracellular stores [the endoplasmic and/or sarcoplasmic reticulum (ER/SR)], however, a new steady state is achieved with a slightly increased [Ca2+]cyt but a substantially augmented Ca2+ store; thus the ER/SR effectively acts as a Ca2+ amplifier. This extra stored Ca2+ is then available for mobilization whenever the cells are activated. Cytosolic Ca2+ is a key signaling mechanism in virtually all cells: it controls numerous physiological processes such as contraction, secretion, and excitability. Thus ouabain may modulate cell responsiveness via its influence on ER/SR Ca2+ stores. With these principles in mind, we examine evidence that endogenous ouabain may play a role in numerous physiological and pathophysiological processes associated with altered fluid and electrolyte metabolism and deviations from the normal blood pressure-blood volume relationship. We discuss the possible participation of ouabain in the regulation of vascular tone and then consider the putative role of ouabain in several forms of hypertension, congestive heart failure, thyroid and adrenocortical dysfunction, and diabetes mellitus, as well as in the adaptation to high altitude.
This article was published in Am J Physiol
and referenced in Journal of Hypertension: Open Access