Oxytocin and Vasopressin

  • Michel Mühlethaler
  • Mario Raggenbass
  • J. J. Dreifuss


Toward the end of the 19th century, the functions of most endocrine glands were revealed by a combination of surgical removal and of injection of crude extracts. In particular, the intravenous injection of a crude pituitary extract yielded a clear-cut and measurable rise in blood pressure. In 1898, it was shown that this effect was due to components present only in the posterior (“nervous”) subdivision of the gland. In little more than a decade, other actions of posterior pituitary extracts were revealed: the contraction of uterine smooth muscle in late pregnancy and the stimulation of milk ejection during lactation. An effect of the extract on urine output was also noticed at an early date; however, it took several years until it was recognized that the physiological effect was to induce an antidiuresis (for historical references, see Heller, 1974). Vasopressin has been shown in recent years to exert several endocrine actions in addition to its classical antidiuretic and hypertensive effects. Thus, for example, it promotes glycogen breakdown by the liver, acts on spermatogenesis, causes platelet aggregation, and raises the level of antihemophilic globulin in blood.


Paraventricular Nucleus Supraoptic Nucleus Oxytocin Receptor Dorsal Motor Nucleus Magnocellular Neuron 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michel Mühlethaler
  • Mario Raggenbass
  • J. J. Dreifuss

There are no affiliations available

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