Adrenal and Nervous System Mechanisms (S Oparil, Section Editor)

Current Hypertension Reports

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 409-416

First online:

The Sympathetic Nervous System in Obesity Hypertension

  • Thomas E. LohmeierAffiliated withDepartment of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Mississippi Medical Center Email author 
  • , Radu IliescuAffiliated withDepartment of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Mississippi Medical CenterDepartment of Physiology, University of Medicine and Pharmacology “Gr. T. Popa” Iasi Email author 

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Abundant evidence supports a role of the sympathetic nervous system in the pathogenesis of obesity-related hypertension. However, the nature and temporal progression of mechanisms underlying this sympathetically mediated hypertension are incompletely understood. Recent technological advances allowing direct recordings of renal sympathetic nerve activity (RSNA) in conscious animals, together with direct suppression of RSNA by renal denervation and reflex-mediated global sympathetic inhibition in experimental animals and human subjects have been especially valuable in elucidating these mechanisms. These studies strongly support the concept that increased RSNA is the critical mechanism by which increased central sympathetic outflow initiates and maintains reductions in renal excretory function, causing obesity hypertension. Potential determinants of renal sympathoexcitation and the differential mechanisms mediating the effects of renal-specific versus reflex-mediated, global sympathetic inhibition on renal hemodynamics and cardiac autonomic function are discussed. These differential mechanisms may impact the efficacy of current device-based approaches for hypertension therapy.


Obesity Blood pressure Hypertension Sympathetic nervous system Renin-angiotensin system Renal nerves Renal denervation Baroreflex Baroreflex sensitivity Heart rate Heart rate variability Autonomic nervous system Glomerular filtration rate Renal function Cardiac arrhythmogenesis Device-based therapy