Aldosterone has been demonstrated in the perfusate of the ex situ rat heart and heart homogenates; however, the origin of aldosterone in the heart is controversial, with some reporting a primary role for extraadrenal synthesis within the heart, and others finding that all of the aldosterone in the heart is sequestered from the circulation. In an attempt to resolve this controversy, we measured the aldosterone and corticosterone contents of plasma and hearts of rats on a normal salt (NS), low salt (LS), or high salt (HS) diet, adrenalectomized (ADX + HS), and ADX with aldosterone replacement or deoxycorticosterone excess (ADX + HS + DOC) before tissue harvest. The sodium content of the diet had no significant effect on corticosterone levels in the plasma or heart. LS significantly increased, whereas HS decreased the aldosterone content of plasma and heart compared with NS. Corticosterone levels in both plasma and heart and aldosterone levels in plasma of ADX-HS rats were undetectable in most individuals and were extremely low in very few. Although plasma aldosterone was undetectable, aldosterone was measurable in 30% of the hearts of 84 ADX + HS rats, albeit at low levels. The aldosterone and corticosterone contents of the hearts of ADX + HS + DOC were similar to those of ADX + HS, indicating that aldosterone synthase and 11β-hydroxylase, not substrate, are the limiting factors for extraadrenal synthesis of corticosteroids in the heart. In conclusion, we found that the level of aldosterone content in the healthy rat heart in vivo is significantly lower than that reported elsewhere and reflects plasma levels in intact rats.
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