Neuroendocrine control of blood volume, blood pressure and cardiovascular function in horses


Department of Animal Science, Cook College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08903, USA and Equine Exercise Physiology Programme, College of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43210, USA.


Several body systems make critical contributions to the defence of blood volume, mean arterial pressure and plasma tonicity. These mechanisms ensure adequate blood flow to the working muscles and vital tissues along with the provision of adequate fluid volume for sweating and thermoregulation. The present paper integrates data from several recent studies that examined the neuroendocrine control of cardiovascular function in exercising horses. These studies focused on the effects of exercise on plasma concentrations of atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), arginine vasopressin (AVP), plasma renin activity (PRA) and aldosterone (ALDO), hormones associated with the regulation of blood pressure, the distribution of blood flow and the long term control of vascular fluid volume. Data were collected during incremental and endurance exercise, following frusemide administration and after splenectomy. Increases in ANP during exercise were associated with increased atrial pressure and stretching of the atrium. Increases in PRA and ALDO are correlated with increases in sympathetic activity during incremental exercise and with decreases in plasma Na+ and CI concentrations. Plasma AVP increases later in exercise in response to fluid losses, increases in plasma osmolality, and decreases in right atrial pressure. AVP has a minimal effect on renal function during exercise and may be more important during recovery, when it stimulates thirst and drinking. Frusemide and splenectomy decrease atrial pressure, resulting in lower plasma ANP and greater plasma AVP concentrations during steady-state submaximal exercise. The ANP and AVP responses are part of the neuroendocrine action of the cardiopulmonary baroreflex which appears to mediate the accommodation of the mobilised splenic reserve in the horse. In summary, exercise induced increases in ANP, AVP, PRA and ALDO in the horse appear to play an important role in cardiovascular homeostasis.