Public release date: 23-Jun-2011
Dopamine is a natural chemical in the body well known for its role in nerve cell communication; loss of dopamine-producing nerves in a specific region of the brain causes Parkinson disease. However, dopamine also exerts effects on other organs of the body, including the kidneys, where it modulates water transport. The dopamine that acts on the kidneys comes both from the circulation and from the kidneys themselves, which have the capacity to make the chemical, but the roles of these distinct sources of dopamine have not been determined. Raymond Harris, Ming-Zhi Zhang, and colleagues, at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, have now investigated this issue in mice and found that dopamine made within the kidneys is critical for maintaining normal blood pressure. As mice unable to make dopamine within their kidneys developed high blood pressure and lived for a much shorter length of time than normal mice, Harris and colleagues suggest that a functional dopaminergic system in the kidney is important for long-term health and survival.