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The Role of Vasopressin in Hypothalamo-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis Activation during Stress: An Assessment of the Evidence


Address for correspondence: Gábor B. Makara, Institute of Experimental Medicine, H-1450 Budapest, PO Box 67, Hungary. Voice: +361-210-9950; fax: +361-210-9951. e-mail:


Abstract: The hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is a key component of the stress reaction. Most contemporary reviews mention the corticotropin-releasing hormone and arginine vasopressin (AVP)-containing parvocellular neurons of the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus as the endocrinomotor component of the system. Although there are many studies about the role of AVP in the stress activation, there is evidence consistent and inconsistent with the general view on the importance of AVP. We propose a list of experiments that may provide critical evidence for or against the widely held opinion. The naturally AVP-deficient Brattleboro rat seems to be a good tool for studying the role of AVP. Our experiments on Brattleboro rats with restraint and ip hypertonic saline injection did not support the prominent role of AVP in acute stress, although in forced swim the lack of AVP influenced the HPA axis activation. Among different chronic stress situations (14 days' restraint, chronic morphine or ip hypertonic saline treatment, streptozotocin-induced diabetes mellitus), the role of AVP was not confirmed by changes in somatic parameter (i.e., body, thymus, and adrenal weight changes).