Glucagon has been implicated as a growth-promoting hormone in the kidneys of diabetic animals, but its role in the nondiabetic state is unknown. We evaluated the effect of subcutaneous glucagon administration on renal growth in intact rats with two kidneys and after 50% reduction in renal mass. The relative kidney weight was increased in intact rats treated with a glucagon infusion for 7 days (p < 0.01), but decreased in uninephrectomized rats treated with glucagon (p < 0.05). Absolute kidney weight gain and rates of renal DNA synthesis were also significantly blunted by glucagon infusion in uninephrectomized rats. These data suggest that ‘physiologic’ and ‘compensatory’ renal growth are governed by separate processes. Furthermore, the observation that glucagon promotes renal growth in intact nondiabetic animals supports its possible role as a growth factor in the early stages of diabetes.

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