Role of the sympathetic nervous system in cold-induced hypertension in rats

Document Type




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American Physiological Society

Source Publication

Journal of Applied Physiology

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Hypertension develops in rats exposed chronically to cold [6 +/- 2 degrees C (SE)] and includes both an elevation of mean arterial pressure and cardiac hypertrophy. Previous studies suggest that cold-exposed animals, at least initially, have a large sustained increase in the activity of their sympathetic nervous system, suggesting a failure of the baroreceptor system to provide sufficient negative feedback to the central nervous system. The present study was designed to investigate whether alterations in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, including the baroreceptor reflex, occur during exposure to cold and whether they contribute to cold-induced hypertension. Twenty male rats were prepared with indwelling catheters in the femoral artery and vein. Ten of the rats were exposed to cold (6 +/- 2 degrees C) chronically, while the remaining 10 were kept at 26 +/- 2 degrees C. Withdrawal of arterial blood samples (less than 5 ml/kg), measurement of direct arterial pressures, and measurement of baroreflex function were carried out at 0800 h at intervals throughout the experiment. Norepinephrine and epinephrine concentrations in plasma were also determined at intervals throughout the experiment. Systolic, diastolic, and mean blood pressures of cold-exposed rats were increased to levels significantly above those of controls. The sensitivity of the baroreflex (delta heart period/delta mean arterial pressure) was decreased in the cold-treated group. The concentration of norepinephrine in plasma increased after 24 h of exposure to cold and remained elevated throughout the experiment, whereas the concentration of epinephrine in plasma increased initially but returned to control levels after 19 days of exposure to cold. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that a neurogenic component may have a role in the development and maintenance of cold-induced hypertension.


Journal of Applied Physiology, Vol 71, No. 1 (July 1991): 300-306. DOI.

Paula Papanek was affiliated with University of Florida - Gainesville at the time of publication.