- OBJECTIVE: This study was designed to test the hypothesis that non-genetic factors such as age, gonads and maternal environment modulate the expression of the salt-susceptibility genes and affect the blood pressure response to salt-loading (salt-sensitivity and salt-resistance) in the Sabra rat model of hypertension. METHODS: The blood pressure response to salt-loading was studied in Sabra hypertension prone (SBH/y) and Sabra hypertension resistant (SBN/y) rats of both sexes: (1) at 1, 3, 6, 9 and 12 months of age, (2) in adult rats after orchiectomy or oophorectomy, and (3) in animals that had been raised and nourished from birth to weaning by a foster mother from the contrasting strain. In each of the study protocols, systolic blood pressure was measured at baseline by the tail cuff method, animals were salt-loaded with deoxycorticosterone acetate, and blood pressure was measured again after 4 weeks. RESULTS: Basal blood pressure at all the ages studied and in both sexes was on average 10-15 mmHg higher in SBH/y than in SBN/y. Salt-loading in SBN/y of both sexes aged 1-12 months did not induce any significant increment in blood pressure. Salt-loading in SBH/y, in contrast, caused a highly significant rise in systolic blood pressure, of 40 mmHg or more at all the ages studied. There was no age difference or sex dependence in the magnitude of the blood pressure response to salt Oophorectomy or orchiectomy did not affect the levels of basal blood pressure nor prevent the hypertensive response to salt-loading in SBH/y or the lack of a hypertensive response in SBN/y rats. Gonadectomy did not affect blood pressure in salt-loaded hypertensive SBH/y nor in salt-loaded normotensive SBN/y. The basal blood pressure and the blood pressure responses of SBH/y and SBN/y of both sexes raised by foster mothers of the contrasting strains from birth to weaning were not different from those observed when raised by their natural mothers. CONCLUSIONS: This study indicates that salt-sensitivity in SBH/y and salt-resistance in SBN/y are not age-dependent phenomena; that the magnitude of the BP response to salt-loading is not sex-dependent; and that neither gonadectomy nor the maternal environment affect the blood pressure response to salt-loading in the adult animal of either strain. These non-genetic factors thus do not modulate expression of the salt-susceptibility genes in the Sabra genetic model of salt-sensitive hypertension.