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Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2008 Feb;192(2):287-301. Epub 2007 Nov 15.

A physiological view of the central and peripheral mechanisms that regulate the release of catecholamines at the adrenal medulla.

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Instituto Teófilo Hernando, Departamento de Farmacología y Terapéutica, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain.


Here we review the tight neural control of the differential secretion into the circulation, of the adrenal medullary hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline. One or the other catecholamines are differentially released on various stress conditions. This is specifically controlled by central nervous system nuclei at the cortex, hypothalamus and spinal cord. Different firing patterns of splanchnic nerves and nicotinic or muscarinic receptors cause the selective release of noradrenaline or adrenaline, to adapt the body to the 'fight or flight' reaction, or during severe hypoglycaemia, haemorrhage, cold, acute myocardial infarction or other severe stressful conflicts. Endogenously acetylcholine (ACh) released at the splanchnic nerve-chromaffin cell synapse, acting on muscarinic and nicotinic receptors, causes membrane depolarization and action potentials (AP) in chromaffin cells. These changes vary with the animal species, the cell preparation (intact bisected adrenal, adrenal slices, or isolated fresh or cultured cells) or the recording technique (intracellular microelectrodes, patch-clamp, perforated-patch, cell-attached). Conflicting results leave many open questions concerning the actions of ACh on chromaffin cell excitability. The use of adrenal slices and field electrical stimulation will surely provide new insights into these mechanisms. Chromaffin cells have been thoroughly used as models to study the relationship between Ca2+ entry, cytosolic Ca2+ signals, exocytosis and endocytosis, using patch-clamp and amperometric techniques. Cells have been stimulated with single depolarizing pulses (DPs), DP trains and with simulated AP waveforms. These approaches have provided useful information but we have no data on APs generated by pulsatile secretory quanta of ACh, trying to mimic the intermittent and repetitive splanchnic nerve discharge of the neurotransmitter. We present some recent experiments using ultrashort ACh pulses (25 ms), that cause non-desensitizing repetitive APs with each ACh pulse, at low ACh concentrations (30 microM). Ultrashort pulses of a high ACh concentration (1000 microM) causes a single AP followed by a prolonged depolarization. It could be interesting trying to correlate these 'patterns of splanchnic nerve discharge' with Ca2+ signals and exocytosis. This, together with the use of adrenal slices and transmural electrical stimulation of splanchnic nerves will provide new physiologically sound data on the regulation of adrenal medullary secretion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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