A family suffering from cranial diabetes insipidus, that extends over 4 generations, is described. Inheritance of polyuria was autosomal dominant. Vasopressin function was studied in members of the last 2 generations, 4 of whom had polyuria. Osmoregulation of vasopressin secretion was assessed by infusion of hypertonic saline. Plasma vasopressin remained undetectable in one patient, while 2 others had very blunted vasopressin responses to osmotic stimulation. Three non-osmotic stimuli were applied. Controlled hypotension produced by trimetaphan infusion and insulin-induced hypoglycaemia did not increase plasma vasopressin but apomorphine-induced nausea caused a minimal rise in plasma vasopressin to 0.7 pg/ml. Polyuria and thirst resolved with antidiuretic therapy in all patients studied. Congenital absence of vasopressin as in Brattleboro rats is unlikely to account for diabetes insipidus in this disorder since small increases in vasopressin have been demonstrated in these patients. In view of previous post-mortem findings, familial cranial diabetes insipidus is most likely to be due to degeneration of vasopressin-synthesizing neurones.
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