Physiological role of sodium

Osmotic skeleton of extracellular fluid. Maintains plasma and extracellular fluid osmolality by virtue of being the principal osmotically active solute. Maintains intravascular and extracellular (interstitial) fluid volumes. Increases or decreases in total body sodium tend to increase or decrease the extracellular fluid and plasma volume.

Causes transmembrane potential differences that are responsible for excitability in nerve, muscle and other cells.

Permits movement of water and thereby influences cell volume.

Ensures potassium supply to intracellular fluid.

Permits dilution of urine.

Facilitates defence against hyperkalaemia.

By co-transport, facilitates both enteric uptake of solutes such as glucose and amino acids, along with their renal reabsorption.

By counter-transport, influences concentration of other cations, e.g. Ca2 +, in intracellular fluid and may therefore influence, e.g., response of arterioles to vasoconstrictor tone.

Rates of sodium transport potentially affect a variety of metabolic pathways because Na+K+ -ATPase is a major consumer of ATP.

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