Vasopressin and oxytocin in control of the cardiovascular system

Vasopressin (VP) and oxytocin (OT) are mainly synthesized in the magnocellular neurons of the paraventricular (PVN) and supraoptic nucleus (SON) of the hypothalamus. Axons from the magnocellular part of the PVN and SON project to neurohypophysis where VP and OT are released in blood to act like hormones. Axons from the parvocellular part of PVN project to extra-hypothalamic brain areas (median eminence, limbic system, brainstem and spinal cord) where VP and OT act like neurotransmitters/modulators. VP and OT act in complementary manner in cardiovascular control, both as hormones and neurotransmitters. While VP conserves water and increases circulating blood volume, OT eliminates sodium. Hyperactivity of VP neurons and quiescence of OT neurons in PVN underlie osmotic adjustment to pregnancy. In most vascular beds VP is a potent vasoconstrictor, more potent than OT, except in the umbilical artery at term. The vasoconstriction by VP and OT is mediated via V1aR. In some vascular beds, i.e. the lungs and the brain, VP and OT produce NO dependent vasodilatation. Peripherally, VP has been found to enhance the sensitivity of the baro-receptor while centrally, VP and OT increase sympathetic outflow, suppresse baro-receptor reflex and enhance respiration. Whilst VP is an important mediator of stress that triggers ACTH release, OT exhibits anti-stress properties. Moreover, VP has been found to contribute considerably to progression of hypertension and heart failure while OT has been found to decrease blood pressure and promote cardiac healing. Read more