Observations on the nature, biosynthesis, secretion and significance of endogenous ouabain

John M. Hamlyn, Zhuo Ren Lu, Paolo Manunta, James H. Ludens, Keizo Kimura, Jui R. Shah, James Laredo, James P. Hamilton, Matthew J. Hamilton, Bruce P. Hamilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


The human circulation contains four readily distinguishable biologically active inhibitors of the sodium pump that appear to be endogenous to mammals. Of these, one has been purified to homogeneity and by numerous chromatographic, mass spectral, biochemical, and physiological analyses has been shown to be a novel steroidal isomer of ouabain in which the location and orientation of two or more steroidal hydroxyl groups differ. The human endogenous 'ouabain' (EO) is a high affinity reversible inhibitor of the pump with inotropic and vasopressor activity. Circulating levels of EO depend upon the adrenal cortex and metabolic events preceding and following pregnenolone formation are involved in EO biosynthesis. Within the adrenal gland, the stimulus-secretion mechanisms for EO secretion are distinct from those for aldosterone highlighting different regulation. Among Caucasians with essential hypertension, 30-45% have elevated circulating levels of EO. Sustained elevation of plasma ouabain in rats induces chronic hypertension with characteristics similar to those in patients and whose severity is determined by inherited factors and renal function. In conclusion, at least one of the mammalian counterparts to the cardiac glycosides is a novel steroidal isomer of ouabain. The isomer is secreted by the adrenal cortex, and augments cardiovascular function. The observation of this entity in the human circulation, the demonstration of its biosynthesis, and the existence of specific receptors suggest to us that EO is a novel adrenocortical hormone and may be part of a broader family of novel mammalian steroids that regulate the sodium pump and other processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-533
Number of pages11
JournalClinical and Experimental Hypertension
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Adrenal
  • Angiotensin II
  • Cardiac glycosides
  • Endogenous
  • Hypertension
  • Isomer
  • Ouabain
  • Steroids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Physiology


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