Sodium in biology

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Sodium ions are necessary in small amounts for some types of plants, but sodium as a nutrient is more generally needed in larger amounts by animals, due to their use of it for generation of nervous impulses and finer regulation of fluid balance. In animals, sodium ions (often referred to as just "sodium") are necessary for regulation of blood and body fluids, transmission of nerve impulses, heart activity, and certain metabolic functions.[1]

Sodium distribution in species[edit]

Plants[edit]

In C4 plants, sodium is a micronutrient that aids in metabolism, specifically in regeneration of phosphoenolpyruvate (involved in the biosynthesis of various aromatic compounds, and in carbon fixation) and synthesis of chlorophyll.[2] In others, it substitutes for potassium in several roles, such as maintaining turgor pressure and aiding in the opening and closing of stomata.[3] Excess sodium in the soil limits the uptake of water due to decreased water potential, which may result in wilting; similar concentrations in the cytoplasm can lead to enzyme inhibition, which in turn causes necrosis and chlorosis.[4] To avoid these problems, plants developed mechanisms that limit sodium uptake by roots, store them in cell vacuoles, and control them over long distances;[5] excess sodium may also be stored in old plant tissue, limiting the damage to new growth.

Animals[edit]

Since only some plants need sodium and those in small quantities, a completely plant-based diet will generally be very low in sodium. This requires some herbivores to obtain their sodium from salt licks and other mineral sources. The animal need for sodium is probably the reason for the highly-conserved ability to taste the sodium ion as "salty." Receptors for the pure salty taste respond best to sodium, otherwise only to a few other small monovalent cations (Li+, NH4+, and somewhat to K+). Calcium ion (Ca2+) also tastes salty and sometimes bitter to some people but, like potassium, can trigger other tastes.

Sodium ions play a diverse and important role in many physiological processes. Sodium is an essential nutrient that regulates blood volume, blood pressure, osmotic equilibrium and pH; the minimum physiological requirement for sodium is 500 milligrams per day.[6] Sodium chloride is the principal source of sodium in the diet, and is used as seasoning and preservative, such as for pickling and jerky; most of it comes from processed foods.[7] The Adequate Intake for sodium is 1.2 to 1.5 grams per day,[8] but on average people in the United States consume 3.4 grams per day,[9] the minimum amount that promotes hypertension.[10]

The renin-angiotensin system and the atrial natriuretic peptide indirectly regulate the amount of signal transduction in the human central nervous system, which depends on sodium ion motion across the nerve cell membrane, in all nerves. Sodium is thus important in neuron function and osmoregulation between cells and the extracellular fluid; the distribution of sodium ions are mediated in all animals by Na+/K+-ATPase.[11] Hence, sodium is the most prominent cation in extracellular fluid: the 15 liters of it in a 70 kg human have around 50 grams of sodium, 90% of the body's total sodium content.

Some potent neurotoxins, such as batrachotoxin, increase the sodium ion permeability of the cell membranes in nerves and muscles, causing a massive and irreversible depolarization of the membranes, with potentially fatal consequences. However, drugs with smaller effects on sodium ion motion in nerves may have diverse pharmacological effects which range from anti-depressant to anti-seizure actions.

Function of sodium ions[edit]

Whenever there is an increase in sodium concentration in the blood, the kidney releases most of it in order that there will be enough water for use of the body. But when there is a decrease in its concentration, there is more release of water to store more sodium which the body needs dearly. This process is known as osmo-regulation.

Sodium is the primary cation (positive ion) in extracellular fluids in animals and humans. These fluids, such as blood plasma and extracellular fluids in other tissues, bathe cells and carry out transport functions for nutrients and wastes. Sodium is also the principal cation in seawater, although the concentration there is about 3.8 times what it is normally in extracellular body fluids.

Human water and salt balance[edit]

Although the system for maintaining optimal salt and water balance in the body is a complex one,[12] one of the primary ways in which the human body keeps track of loss of body water is that osmoreceptors in the hypothalamus sense a balance of sodium and water concentration in extracellular fluids. Relative loss of body water will cause sodium concentration to rise higher than normal, a condition known as hypernatremia. This ordinarily results in thirst. Conversely, an excess of body water caused by drinking will result in too little sodium in the blood (hyponatremia), a condition which is again sensed by the hypothalamus, causing a decrease in vasopressin hormone secretion from the anterior pituitary, and a consequent loss of water in the urine, which acts to restore blood sodium concentrations to normal.

Severely dehydrated persons, such as people rescued from ocean or desert survival situations, usually have very high blood sodium concentrations. These must be very carefully and slowly returned to normal, since too-rapid correction of hypernatremia may result in brain damage from cellular swelling, as water moves suddenly into cells with high osmolar content.

In humans, a high-salt intake was demonstrated to attenuate nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide (NO) contributes to vessel homeostasis by inhibiting vascular smooth muscle contraction and growth, platelet aggregation, and leukocyte adhesion to the endothelium [13]

Urinary sodium[edit]

Because the hypothalamus/osmoreceptor system ordinarily works well to cause drinking or urination to restore the body's sodium concentrations to normal, this system can be used in medical treatment to regulate the body's total fluid content, by first controlling the body's sodium content. Thus, when a powerful diuretic drug is given which causes the kidneys to excrete sodium, the effect is accompanied by an excretion of body water (water loss accompanies sodium loss). This happens because the kidney is unable to efficiently retain water while excreting large amounts of sodium. In addition, after sodium excretion, the osmoreceptor system may sense lowered sodium concentration in the blood and then direct compensatory urinary water loss in order to correct the hyponatremic (low blood sodium) state.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pohl, Hanna R.; Wheeler, John S.; Murray, H. Edward (2013). "Chapter 2. Sodium and Potassium in Health and Disease". In Astrid Sigel, Helmut Sigel and Roland K. O. Sigel. Interrelations between Essential Metal Ions and Human Diseases. Metal Ions in Life Sciences 13. Springer. pp. 29–47. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-7500-8_2. 
  2. ^ Kering, M. K. (2008). "Manganese Nutrition and Photosynthesis in NAD-malic enzyme C4 plants Ph.D. dissertation". University of Missouri-Columbia. Retrieved 2011-11-09. 
  3. ^ Subbarao, G. V.; Ito, O.; Berry, W. L.; Wheeler, R. M. (2003). "Sodium—A Functional Plant Nutrient". Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 22 (5): 391–416. doi:10.1080/07352680390243495. 
  4. ^ Zhu, J. K. (2001). "Plant salt tolerance". Trends in Plant Science 6 (2): 66–71. doi:10.1016/S1360-1385(00)01838-0. PMID 11173290. 
  5. ^ "Plants and salt ion toxicity". Plant Biology. Retrieved 2010-11-02. 
  6. ^ "Sodium". Northwestern University. Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  7. ^ "Sodium and Potassium Quick Health Facts". Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  8. ^ "Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate". Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, United States National Academies. 2004-02-11. Retrieved 2011-11-23. 
  9. ^ U.S. Department of Agriculture; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (December 2010). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 (PDF) (7th ed.). p. 22. ISBN 978-0-16-087941-8. OCLC 738512922. Retrieved 2011-11-23. 
  10. ^ Geleijnse, J. M.; Kok, F. J.; Grobbee, D. E. (2004). "Impact of dietary and lifestyle factors on the prevalence of hypertension in Western populations". European Journal of Public Health 14 (3): 235–239. doi:10.1093/eurpub/14.3.235. PMID 15369026. 
  11. ^ Campbell, Neil (1987). Biology. Benjamin/Cummings. p. 795. ISBN 0-8053-1840-2. 
  12. ^ Clausen, Michael Jakob Voldsgaard; Poulsen, Hanne (2013). "Chapter 3 Sodium/Potassium Homeostasis in the Cell". In Banci, Lucia (Ed.). Metallomics and the Cell. Metal Ions in Life Sciences 12. Springer. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-5561-1_3. ISBN 978-94-007-5560-4.  electronic-book ISBN 978-94-007-5561-1 ISSN 1559-0836 electronic-ISSN 1868-0402
  13. ^ Tomohiro Osanai, Naoto Fujiwara, Masayuki Saitoh, Satoko Sasaki, Hirofumi Tomita, Masayuki Nakamura, Hiroshi Osawa, Hideaki Yamabe, Ken Okumura (2002). "Relationship between Salt Intake, Nitric Oxide and Asymmetric Dimethylarginine and Its Relevance to Patients with End-Stage Renal Disease −". Blood Purif 20: 466–468. doi:10.1159/000063555. PMID 12207094. 

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