Washington: Dopamine, a key neurotransmitter active in the brain, is best known for triggering feel good emotions.
Now investigators have shown how dopamine produced outside the brain, in the kidneys, is important for renal function, blood pressure regulation and lifespan.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals which help transmit signals from one neuron to another across synapses or junctions of such brain cells.
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre suggest that the kidney-specific dopamine system may be a therapeutic target for treating hypertension and kidney diseases, the Journal of Clinical Investigation reports.
Previous studies had suggested a role for dopamine in regulating kidney function and total body fluid volume, "but how that mechanism works was not clear," said Raymond Harris, chief of nephrology and hypertension at Vanderbilt, according to its statement.
Harris and Ming-Zhi Zhang, assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt, eliminated kidney-specific dopamine production in mice by knocking out a dopamine-generating enzyme only in the kidney, and studied the outcome.
They found that mice lacking kidney dopamine had high blood pressure at baseline and became more hypertensive when they consumed a high-salt diet, suggesting they may be a good model of salt-sensitive (essential) hypertension, Harris said.
Alterations in the kidney dopamine system may predispose individuals to hypertension (high blood pressure), he noted.
"These animals retain salt and water when they don`t have sufficient dopamine production in the kidney," Harris said.