- Objective To investigate whether mutations in the C-terminus of the three subunits of the rat epithelial sodium channel (αβγ-rENaC) contribute to the hypertensive phenotype in five rat models for essential hypertension. Design We sequenced the C-terminal regions of α-, β- and γ-rENaC genes in five different hypertensive rat strains [spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR), Dahl salt-sensitive (SS/Jr) rats, Milan hypertensive (MHS) rats, Sabra hypertensive (SBH) rats and Lyon hypertensive rats (LHR)] and their normotensive controls [Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats, Dahl salt-resistant (SR/Jr) rats, Milan normotensive (MNS) rats, Sabra normotensive (SBN) rats and Lyon normotensive rats (LNR)]. Identified polymorphisms were tested for cosegregation with blood pressure as well as for increased epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) activity. Methods Genomic DNA extracted from hypertensive and normotensive rat strains was amplified by the polymerase chain reaction and polymerase chain reaction fragments were sequenced. Cosegregation analysis was performed to test for correlations between blood pressure and different genotypes. The effects of a polymorphism on ENaC activity were assessed by functional expression in Xenopus laevis oocytes. The chromosomal location of the gene for γ-ENaC was determined by linkage analysis in an F2 (MHS x MNS) population. Results We found no polymorphisms at the C-terminus of α- and β-rENaC in the five rat models tested. We identified two polymorphisms at the C-terminus of the γ-subunit, one leading to an amino acid change. Milan strains (MNS and MHS) were polymorphic for this mutation. By cosegregation analysis we could exclude the possibility that there was a correlation between blood pressure and this polymorphism. Functional expression of the polymorphism caused no increase in ENaC activity assessed by measurement of the amiloride-sensitive sodium current in Xenopus oocytes. The gene for the γ-ENAC was located on rat chromosome 1. Conclusions No polymorphisms at the C-terminus of the three subunits of the epithelial sodium channel cosegregating with blood pressure were detected in five different genetic rat models for hypertension. If an altered ENaC activity contributes to the pathogenesis of hypertension in these rats, it must thus arise from mutations in other parts of the protein, from mutations outside the coding region impairing the proper regulation of one of the subunits or from mutations in an ENaC-associated protein.