1. Hypertension was induced in rats by substituting 2% (w/v) sodium chloride solution for drinking water. Sodium distribution in isolated mesenteric arterial wall was studied with the aid of 22Na, which was continuously washed out. Data were analysed by digital computer simulation without recourse to ancillary chemical measurements of extracellular space.
2. A three-compartment model consisting of (i) extracellular, (ii) intracellular and (iii) subcellular space was found to represent adequately the kinetics of 22Na. Transport rate constants were chosen as primary parameters describing intercompartmental sodium exchanges; the ratio of extra- to intra-cellular sodium compartments was calculated.
3. Results show the following significant changes in mesenteric arterial wall of salt-loaded hypertensive rats: (i) slowed sodium turnover; (ii) a decrease of the transport rate constant, which is presumed to reflect sodium movements from the intra- to the extra-cellular compartment; (iii) an increase of the transport rate constant, presumed to reflect sodium movements from the extra- to the intra-cellular compartment; (iv) a diminution of the extra- to intra-cellular compartment ratio for sodium.
4. The results suggest net movement of sodium into the cells; this change may be relevant to smooth muscle contraction and hence to the pathogenesis of blood pressure elevation in this model.