Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Jeffrey L. Osborn


In spite of significant progress in our knowledge of mechanisms that control blood pressure, our understanding of the pathogenesis of hypertension, its genetics, and population efforts to control blood pressure, hypertension remains the leading risk factor for mortality worldwide. It’s estimated that 1 out of every 3 adults has hypertension. Hypertension is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke, and is considered a primary or contributing cause of death to more than 2.4 million US deaths each year. Although spontaneous hypertension has been the subject of substantial research, many critical questions remain unanswered.

To investigate mechanisms underlying spontaneous hypertension, a unique rodent breeding approach was used to isolate nuclear and mitochondrial genes contributing to the disease. By diluting the nuclear genome of the Spontaneously Hypertensive Rat on a normotensive Brown Norway background while maintaining the SHR mitochondrial genome, I investigated both intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms of the kidney and its relationship to hypertension. Chapter 2 documents the dominance of the hypertensive phenotype in our rodent colony, despite the dilution of the nuclear genome of the SHR. Chapter 3 presents data indicating that the renin-angiotensin system, particularly the location and abundance of the AT1 receptor may play an important role in the manifestation of spontaneous hypertension. Chapter 4 presents that rats in our rodent colony exhibited normal pressure-natriuresis and kidney function; however, hypertensive rats had a reduced ability to sense orally ingested sodium chloride, thus necessitating chronic elevations of arterial pressure in order to maintain sodium balance. This chronic pressure-natriuresis relationship shifts the renal function curve to the right, thus sustaining elevated blood pressure. Chapter 5 presents data that genes important for oxidative phosphorylation may play a critical role in the development of hypertension. Both nuclear and mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation genes were downregulated in hypertensive rats compared with normotensive rats. Data presented in every chapter highlights the importance of the kidney in the pathogenesis of hypertension. Humoral, genetic and genomic mechanisms of the kidney appear to play a dominant role in the development and maintenance of the disease.