The effect of chronic beta adrenergic blockade on potassium homeostasis during moderate intensity exercise (40% of VO2 max) was examined in seven end-stage renal patients who were being maintained on chronic dialysis treatment. Subjects participated in three study protocols: 1) exercise alone, 2) exercise plus propranolol (a nonselective beta-1, beta-2 antagonist), and 3) exercise plus metoprolol (a specific beta-1 antagonist). The basal potassium concentration was similar in all three studies and averaged 4.95 ± 0.12 mEq/liter. During Study 1 (exercise alone), plasma potassium rose by 0.26 ± 0.09 mEq/liter. During exercise with propranolol, plasma K concentration rose significantly higher (Δ plasma K = 0.44 ± 0.26 mEq/liter; P < 0.05 vs. exercise alone). In contrast, the rise in plasma K during exercise with metoprolol (Δ plasma K = 0.20 ± 0.08 mEq/liter) was similar to that observed with exercise alone. Differences in potassium homeostasis between metoprolol and propranolol could not be explained by differences in hemodynamic parameters, levels of potassium regulatory hormones, or acid base status. Thus, the higher rise in potassium concentration during exercise with propranolol could only be explained by adrenergic blockade at the beta-2 receptor site. These results support the concept that adrenergic control of extrarenal potassium homeostasis in dialysis patients is mediated at the beta-2 receptor. Since a deterioration in potassium homeostasis during exercise is observed with beta-2, but not beta-1 blockade, selective beta-1 adrenergic blocking agents may be safer in dialysis patients.
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