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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Angiotensin, thirst, and sodium appetite.

Angiotensin (ANG) II is a powerful and phylogenetically widespread stimulus to thirst and sodium appetite. When it is injected directly into sensitive areas of the brain, it causes an immediate increase in water intake followed by a slower increase in NaCl intake. Drinking is vigorous, highly motivated, and rapidly completed. The amounts of water taken within 15 min or so of injection can exceed what the animal would spontaneously drink in the course of its normal activities over 24 h. The increase in NaCl intake is slower in onset, more persistent, and affected by experience. Increases in circulating ANG II have similar effects on drinking, although these may be partly obscured by accompanying rises in blood pressure. The circumventricular organs, median preoptic nucleus, and tissue surrounding the anteroventral third ventricle in the lamina terminalis (AV3V region) provide the neuroanatomic focus for thirst, sodium appetite, and cardiovascular control, making extensive connections with the hypothalamus, limbic system, and brain stem. The AV3V region is well provided with angiotensinergic nerve endings and angiotensin AT1 receptors, the receptor type responsible for acute responses to ANG II, and it responds vigorously to the dipsogenic action of ANG II. The nucleus tractus solitarius and other structures in the brain stem form part of a negative-feedback system for blood volume control, responding to baroreceptor and volume receptor information from the circulation and sending ascending noradrenergic and other projections to the AV3V region. The subfornical organ, organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis and area postrema contain ANG II-sensitive receptors that allow circulating ANG II to interact with central nervous structures involved in hypovolemic thirst and sodium appetite and blood pressure control. Angiotensin peptides generated inside the blood-brain barrier may act as conventional neurotransmitters or, in view of the many instances of anatomic separation between sites of production and receptors, they may act as paracrine agents at a distance from their point of release. An attractive speculation is that some are responsible for long-term changes in neuronal organization, especially of sodium appetite. Anatomic mismatches between sites of production and receptors are less evident in limbic and brain stem structures responsible for body fluid homeostasis and blood pressure control. Limbic structures are rich in other neuroactive peptides, some of which have powerful effects on drinking, and they and many of the classical nonpeptide neurotransmitters may interact with ANG II to augment or inhibit drinking behavior. Because ANG II immunoreactivity and binding are so widely distributed in the central nervous system, brain ANG II is unlikely to have a role as circumscribed as that of circulating ANG II. Angiotensin peptides generated from brain precursors may also be involved in functions that have little immediate effect on body fluid homeostasis and blood pressure control, such as cell differentiation, regeneration and remodeling, or learning and memory. Analysis of the mechanisms of increased drinking caused by drugs and experimental procedures that activate the renal renin-angiotensin system, and clinical conditions in which renal renin secretion is increased, have provided evidence that endogenously released renal renin can generate enough circulating ANG II to stimulate drinking. But it is also certain that other mechanisms of thirst and sodium appetite still operate when the effects of circulating ANG II are blocked or absent, although it is not known whether this is also true for angiotensin peptides formed in the brain. Whether ANG II should be regarded primarily as a hormone released in hypovolemia helping to defend the blood volume, a neurotransmitter or paracrine agent with a privileged role in the neural pathways for thirst and sodium appetite of all kinds, a neural organizer especially in sodium appetit[1]


  1. Angiotensin, thirst, and sodium appetite. Fitzsimons, J.T. Physiol. Rev. (1998) [Pubmed]
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