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Ageing Res Rev. 2002 Jun;1(3):537-58.

Neurohypophyseal peptides in aging and Alzheimer's disease.

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  • 1Netherlands Institute for Brain Research, Meibergdreef 33, 1105 AZ, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


The neurohypophyseal hormones arginine-vasopressin (AVP) and oxytocin (OT) are produced in the neurons of the hypothalamic supraoptic (SON) and paraventricular (PVN) nucleus and in the much smaller cells of the suprachiasmatic (SCN) nucleus. The SON is the main source of plasma AVP. Part of the AVP and OT neurons of the PVN join the hypothalamo-neurohypophyseal tract, whereas others send projections to the median eminence or various brain areas, where AVP and OT are involved in a number of central functions as neurotransmitters/neuromodulators. AVP and OT from the PVN can also regulate via the autonomous innervation endocrine glands and fat tissue. OT is produced for a major part in the PVN but some OT neurons are present in the SON. Moreover, both AVP and OT containing neurons are observed in the "accessory nuclei", i.e. islands situated between the SON and PVN. The SCN is the biological clock, and the number of AVP expressing neurons in the SCN shows both diurnal and seasonal rhythms. In addition to these hypothalamic areas, AVP and OT may be found to a lesser extent in some other brain areas, such as the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, diagonal band of Broca, nucleus basalis of Meynert, lateral septal nucleus, globus pallidus and the anterior amygdaloid nucleus, as well as in the peripheral tissues. The AVP and OT containing neurons should not be considered as one system. Prominent functional differences exist between the different nuclei. The heterogeneity also becomes clear from the marked differences in the neurohypophyseal peptides containing neurons of the SON, PVN and SCN during aging, and in the most prevalent age-related neurodegenerative diseases, i.e. Alzheimer's disease (AD). For those reasons, we will discuss the SON, PVN and SCN separately.

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