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© 2017 The Authors. The Journal of Physiology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of The Physiological Society Key points: A growing body of evidence suggests that epithelial Na+ channels (ENaCs) in the brain play a significant role in the regulation of blood pressure; however, the brain structures that mediate the effect are not well understood. Because vasopressin (VP) neurons play a pivotal role in coordinating neuroendocrine and autonomic responses to maintain cardiovascular homeostasis, a basic understanding of the regulation and activity of ENaC in VP neurons is of great interest. We show that high dietary salt intake caused an increase in the expression and activity of ENaC which resulted in the steady state depolarization of VP neurons. The results help us understand one of the mechanisms underlying how dietary salt intake affects the activity of VP neurons via ENaC activity. Abstract: All three epithelial Na+ channel (ENaC) subunits (α, β and γ) are located in vasopressin (VP) magnocellular neurons in the hypothalamic supraoptic (SON) and paraventricular nuclei. Our previous study demonstrated that ENaC mediates a Na+ leak current that affects the steady state membrane potential in VP neurons. In the present study, we evaluated the effect of dietary salt intake on ENaC regulation and activity in VP neurons. High dietary salt intake for 7 days caused an increase in expression of β- and γENaC subunits in the SON and the translocation of αENaC immunoreactivity towards the plasma membrane. Patch clamp experiments on hypothalamic slices showed that the mean amplitude of the putative ENaC currents was significantly greater in VP neurons from animals that were fed a high salt diet compared with controls. The enhanced ENaC current contributed to the more depolarized basal membrane potential observed in VP neurons in the high salt diet group. These findings indicate that high dietary NaCl intake enhances the expression and activity of ENaCs, which augments synaptic drive by depolarizing the basal membrane potential close to the action potential threshold during hormonal demand. However, ENaCs appear to have only a minor role in the regulation of the firing activity of VP neurons in the absence of synaptic inputs as neither the mean intraburst frequency, burst duration, nor interspike interval variability of phasic bursting activity was affected. Moreover, ENaC activity did not affect the initiation, sustention, or termination of the phasic bursting generated in an intrinsic manner without synaptic inputs.

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Journal of Physiology

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