1. The role of water balance in the hypokalaemia of rats with diabetes insipidus (DI rats) was studied.
2. After a 3-day balance study DI rats had a lower muscle potassium content, and plasma [K+], and the urinary excretion of potassium in response to oral KCl loading was reduced when compared to normal rats. The hypokalaemia was found to be associated with elevated concentrations of potassium in renal medulla and papilla when compared to values in normal Long-Evans rats.
3. During a 9-day balance study urinary potassium excretion was higher than that of normal rats on days 1-3, but not different on days 4-9; this transient elevation was observed in DI rats on normal, high and low potassium diets. On a low potassium diet the urinary potassium excretion of DI rats fell to minimal levels, making unlikely the existence of a renal defect in potassium handling.
4. Muscle potassium content and plasma [K+] were normal after 9 days in metabolism cages. This spontaneous reversal of the hypokalaemia of DI rats was associated with increased water content of renal medulla and papilla, and decreased potassium concentration in these zones.
5. The effect of acute mild dehydration on potassium handling of DI rats was evaluated. Water deprivation for 1-8 hr was sufficient to raise the urinary potassium excretion of DI rats above that of DI rats drinking ad lib. Renal tissue [K+] was significantly increased after 8 hr of dehydration. Water deprivation also enhanced the response of DI rats to an oral KCl load. Two days of chronic dehydration in the form of water rationing also significantly enhanced the urinary potassium excretion of DI rats.
6. These data suggest that chronic mild dehydration may be responsible for the modest potassium deficiency observed in DI rats via alterations in renal tissue [K+] and consequently in urinary potassium excretion. Correction of dehydration during prolonged periods in metabolism cages may account for the spontaneous reversal of the hypokelaemic condition.
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