Derek Ashworth Denton has made outstanding contributions to the physiology of body fluid homeostasis, particularly the mechanisms involved in the regulation of body sodium. His experiments have provided many new insights on sodium homeostasis, secretory processes and endocrine influences in environmental adaptation. He pioneered in the method of adrenal autotransplantation in the sheep. Through this he was the first to elucidate in vivo the role of ionic and hormonal mechanisms (particularly the role of ACTH, angiotensin II and III) on aldosterone secretion. He was the first to show that the salt appetite of wild animals often arose in response to marked sodium deficiency and this has stimulated him to analyse the behavioural and interrelationships determining salt intake and salt appetite. He has shown that particular hormone combinations can produce strong salt appetite in pregnancy even in the presence of sodium repletion. The development of this type of behaviour pattern may be relevant to the pathogenesis of hypertension.
Denton is one of the world's leading workers and thinkers in the field of body sodium control. He has provided much leadership to medical research in Australia in this important area of integrative physiology and experimental medicine.