Plasma Catecholamines as an Index of a Neuroendocrine Response

  • Irwin J. Kopin


Epinephrine, the pressor substance released into the blood from the adrenal medulla, was the first hormone to be chemically characterized. In 1897, Abel and Crawford isolated and identified epinephrine (which they called “adrenaline”) as N-methyl-3,4-dihydroxyphenylethanolamine (Fig. 1). Because the effects of administered epinephrine were so similar to those of sympathetic nerve stimulation (Langley, 1901), one of Langley’s students proposed that an epinephrine-like substance is released from sympathetic nerve endings (Elliott, 1905). He later showed that epinephrine released from the adrenals is evoked by splanchnic nerve stimulation (Elliott, 1912), but his hypothesis regarding sympathetic nerves remained unproven until Loewi (1921) and Cannon and Uridil (1921) were able to demonstrate that a sympathomimetic substance was discharged when sympathetic nerves were stimulated. The nature of the chemical substance that was released was established over 25 years later when Von Euler (1948) found that norepinephrine (Fig. 1) is present in sympathetic nerve endings. Shortly thereafter, Peart (1949) showed that stimulation of the splenic nerves evoked release of norepinephrine from the spleen, whereas epinephrine was the catecholamine released from the adrenal medulla (Cannon and Rosenbleuth, 1937). Thus, these catecholamines might be considered the first examples of neurohumoral substances and the adrenal medulla the first discovered neuroendocrine gland.


Anorexia Nervosa Sympathetic Nerve Adrenal Medulla Plasma Catecholamine Fluorimetric Method 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irwin J. Kopin
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Clinical ScienceNational Institute of Mental HealthBethesdaUSA

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