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Lessons from rat models of hypertension
from Goldblatt to genetic engineering

Yigal M Pinto, Martin Paul, Detlev Ganten
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0008-6363(98)00077-7 77-88 First published online: 1 July 1998

Abstract

Over the past 50 years various animal models of hypertension have been developed, predominantly in the rat. In this review we discuss the use of the rat as a model of hypertension, and evaluate what these models have taught us. Interestingly, the spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) is by far the most widely used rat model, although it reflects only a rare subtype of human hypertension, i.e. primary hypertension that is inherited in a Mendelian fashion. Many other aspects of the etiology of hypertension are found in other rat models, but these models are less frequently employed. The widespread use of the SHR suggests that this rat model is often chosen without considering alternative (and possibly better suited) models. To illustrate the importance of the choice for a particular model, we compared the natural history and response to antihypertensive drugs in different rat models of hypertension (SHR, Dahl, deoxycorticosterone acetate (DOCA)–salt, two-kidney one-clip, transgenic TGR(mRen2)27. This revealed that the outcome of hypertension can be similar in some respects, as all models exhibit cardiac hypertrophy, and all demonstrate impaired endothelium-dependent relaxations. However, the more severe forms of end-organ damage such as heart failure, stroke and kidney failure, occur only in some models and then only in a subset of the hypertensive rats. The effects of antihypertensives varies even more in the different models: antihypertensive treatment only attenuates end-organ damage if it decreases blood pressure. Moreover, if a given antihypertensive is effective, it sometimes even attenuates end-organ damage in nonhypotensive doses. On the other hand, some agents do decrease blood pressure but do not prevent end-organ damage (e.g. hydralazine in SHR). Furthermore, not all classes of antihypertensives are equally effective in all rat models of hypertension: endothelin-receptor antagonists are not effective in SHR, but have beneficial effects in the DOCA–salt model. The comparison of models, and the comparison of treatment effects suggests that end-organ damage critically depends upon not only on the stress imposed by high blood pressure and its underlying biochemical disturbance, but also upon the ability of the organism to recruit adequate ‘coping’ mechanisms. These coping mechanisms deserve greater attention, as failure to recruit such mechanisms may indicate an increased risk. The current development of transgenic techniques will provide new opportunities, to develop specific models to address this balance between stress and coping.

Keywords
  • Hypertension
  • Animal models
  • End-organ damage
  • Genetic
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