In vitro secretion of glycocorticoids by adrenal glands pooled from several control mice was compared with that of glands removed from animals following injections of either ACTH or endotoxin. Both substances prevent glycocorticoid synthesis stimulated in vitro with ACTH. Cholesterol content of adrenal glands under these conditions was nearly depleted, indicating maximal response to ACTH or endotoxin prior to their removal for the in vitro tests.
In an effort to account physiologically for the manner in which endotoxin suppresses or prevents the rise in urinary nitrogen excreted in response to ACTH, blood non-protein nitrogen levels (NPN) were determined. The following experimental conditions resulted in increased urinary nitrogen excretion but did not alter blood NPN: cortisone given alone or at the same time as endotoxin; ACTH alone; dichloroisoproterenol (DCI) given concurrently with endotoxin; and lactalbumin digest injected intraperitoneally. Increases (2- to 3-fold) in blood NPN were observed when endotoxin was given alone, concurrently with ACTH, or 3 hours prior to cortisone, DCI, or lactalbumin digest. Urinary nitrogen excretion showed no change under these conditions.
The elevation in blood NPN in endotoxin-poisoned mice was found to be due almost entirely to urea nitrogen and not to amino acid nitrogen or to other nitrogenous wastes.
Blood clearance of mulin, phenol red excretion, and urea elimination were each determined in control and in endotoxin-poisoned mice. The latter mice showed impaired renal function. Treatment with diuretics (diuril and aminophylline) failed to alter oliguria or elevated blood NPN. Hydergine treatment was also without effect.
Total carcass NPN and urinary nitrogen excretion data were combined to give a picture of total protein catabolized by mice under different experimental conditions. Cortisone injected at the same time as endotoxin or 3 hours later resulted in the same increase in total NPN. However, in the former case all the extra nitrogen appeared in the urine while in the latter it remained in the carcass. ACTH given alone or concurrently with endotoxin produced large increases in total NPN but less in poisoned mice. This suggests that endotoxin suppresses adrenal response to ACTH.
Urea injected into normal mice was recovered quantitatively in urine while in endotoxin-poisoned mice it was partitioned between carcass and urine. Elevation of carcass NPN by means of urea injections failed to alter the lethality of an LD70 dose of endotoxin.