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Open Access Research article

Computational simulation of vasopressin secretion using a rat model of the water and electrolyte homeostasis

Louis Nadeau, Danielle Arbour and Didier Mouginot*

Author Affiliations

Centre de recherche du CHUQ (CHUL), Neurosciences and Université Laval, Québec, G1V 4G2, Canada

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BMC Physiology 2010, 10:17  doi:10.1186/1472-6793-10-17

Published: 25 August 2010



In mammals, vasopressin (AVP) is released from magnocellular neurons of the hypothalamus when osmotic pressure exceeds a fixed set-point. AVP participates to the hydromineral homeostasis (HH) by controlling water excretion at the level of the kidneys. Our current understanding of the HH and AVP secretion is the result of a vast amount of data collected over the five past decades. This experimental data was collected using a number of systems under different conditions, giving a fragmented view of the components involved in HH.


Here, we present a high-level model of the rat HH based on selected published results to predict short-term (hours) to long-term (days) variation of six major homeostatic parameters: (1) the extracellular sodium concentration, (2) the AVP concentration, (3) the intracellular volume, (4) the extracellular volume, (5) the urine volume and (6) the water intake. The simulation generates quantitative predictions like the daily mean of the extracellular sodium concentration (142.2 mmol/L), the AVP concentration, (1.7 pg/ml), the intracellular volume (45.3 ml/100 g body weight - bw), the extracellular volume (22.6 ml/100 g bw), the urine volume (11.8 ml/100 g bw) and the cumulative water intake (18 ml/100 g bw). The simulation also computes the dynamics of all these parameters with a high temporal resolution of one minute. This high resolution predicts the circadian fluctuation of the AVP secretion (5 ± 2 pg/ml) and defines the limits of a restoration and a maintenance phase in the HH (2.1 pg/ml). Moreover, the simulation can predict the action of pharmacological compounds that disrupt the HH. As an example, we tested the action of a diuretic (furosemide) combined with a sodium deficient diet to generate quantitative prediction on the extracellular sodium concentration (134 mmol/L) and the need-induced water intake (20.3 ml/100 g bw). These simulated data are compatible with experimental data (136 ± 3 mmol/L and 17.5 ± 3.5 ml/100 g bw, respectively).


The quantitative agreement of the predictions with published experimental data indicates that our simplified model of the HH integrates most of the essential systems to predict realistic physiological values and dynamics under a set of normal and perturbed hydromineral conditions.