• hypothalamus;
  • mouse;
  • osmoregulation;
  • rat;
  • vasopressin


The release of vasopressin (antidiuretic hormone) plays a key role in the osmoregulatory response of mammals to changes in salt or water intake and in the rate of water loss through evaporation during thermoregulatory cooling. Previous work has shown that the hypothalamus encloses the sensory elements that modulate vasopressin release during systemic changes in fluid osmolality or body temperature. These responses depend in part on a synaptic regulation of vasopressin neurons by afferent inputs arising from osmosensory and thermosensory neurons in the preoptic area. However, recent studies in rats and mice have shown that vasopressin neurons in the supraoptic nucleus also display intrinsic osmosensory and thermosensory properties. Isolated vasopressin neurons exposed to increases in perfusate temperature or osmolality generate increases in non-selective cation channel activity that cause membrane depolarization and increase neuronal excitability. These channels are calcium-permeable and can be blocked by ruthenium red. Moreover, intrinsic responses to osmotic and thermal stimuli are absent in magnocellular neurosecretory cells isolated from mice lacking the transient receptor potential vanilloid-1 (trpv1) gene, which encodes the capsaicin receptor. Immunostaining of vasopressin-releasing neurons with anti-TRPV1 antibodies reveals the presence of amino acids present in the carboxy terminus of the protein, but not those lying in the amino terminal domain. Thus, magnocellular neurosecretory neurons appear to express an N-terminal variant of trpv1 which lacks sensitivity to capsaicin, but which enables osmosensing and thermosensing.