, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 65-75

Urotensin II: Its Function in Health and Its Role in Disease

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Abstract

Urotensin II (U-II) is the most potent vasoconstrictor known, even more potent than endothelin-1. It was first isolated from the fish spinal cord and has been recognized as a hormone in the neurosecretory system of teleost fish for over 30 years. After the identification of U-II in humans and the orphan human G-protein-coupled receptor 14 as the urotensin II receptor, UT, many studies have shown that U-II may play an important role in cardiovascular regulation. Human urotensin II (hU-II) is an 11 amino acid cyclic peptide, generated by proteolytic cleavage from a precursor prohormone. It is expressed in the central nervous system as well as other tissues, such as kidney, spleen, small intestine, thymus, prostate, pituitary, and adrenal gland and circulates in human plasma. The plasma U-II level is elevated in renal failure, congestive heart failure, diabetes mellitus, systemic hypertension and portal hypertension caused by liver cirrhosis. The effect of U-II on the vascular system is variable, depending on species, vascular bed and calibre of the vessel. The net effect on vascular tone is a balance between endothelium-independent vasoconstriction and endothelium-dependent vasodilatation. U-II is also a neuropeptide and may play a role in tumour development. The development of UT receptor antagonists may provide a useful research tool as well as a novel treatment for cardiorenal diseases.