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Front Neuroendocrinol. 1994 Dec;15(4):351-83.

Role of nitric oxide in the regulation of renin and vasopressin secretion.

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Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco 94143-0444.


Research during recent years has established nitric oxide as a unique signaling molecule that plays important roles in the regulation of the cardiovascular, nervous, immune, and other systems. Nitric oxide has also been implicated in the control of the secretion of hormones by the pancreas, hypothalamus, and anterior pituitary gland, and evidence is accumulating that it contributes to the regulation of the secretion of renin and vasopressin, hormones that play key roles in the control of sodium and water balance. Several lines of evidence have implicated nitric oxide in the control of renin secretion. The enzyme nitric oxide synthase is present in vascular and tubular elements of the kidney, particularly in cells of the macula densa, a structure that plays an important role in the control of renin secretion. Guanylyl cyclase, a major target for nitric oxide, is also present in the kidney. Drugs that inhibit nitric oxide synthesis generally suppress renin release in vivo and in vitro, suggesting a stimulatory role for the L-arginine/nitric oxide pathway in the control of renin secretion. Under some conditions, however, blockade of nitric oxide synthesis increases renin secretion. Recent studies indicate that nitric oxide not only contributes to the regulation of basal renin secretion, but also participates in the renin secretory responses to activation of the renal baroreceptor, macula densa, and beta adrenoceptor mechanisms that regulate renin secretion. Histochemical and immunocytochemical studies have revealed the presence of nitric oxide synthase in the supraoptic and paraventricular nuclei of the hypothalamus and in the posterior pituitary gland. Colocalization of nitric oxide synthase and vasopressin has been demonstrated in some hypothalamic neurons. Nitric oxide synthase activity in the hypothalamus and pituitary is increased by maneuvers known to stimulate vasopressin secretion, including salt loading and dehydration. Administration of L-arginine and nitric oxide donors in vitro and in vivo has variable effects on vasopressin secretion, but the most common one is inhibition. Blockade of nitric oxide synthesis has been reported to increase vasopressin secretion, but again variable results have been obtained. An attractive working hypothesis is that nitric oxide serves a neuromodulatory role as an inhibitor of vasopressin secretion.

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