(Endogenous) Opioids and the cardiovascular system

  • James G. Bovill


While modulation of nociception is often considered the primary effect of the endogenous opioid system, it has become clear during the past decade that this system exhibits a remarkable complexity, with functional implications for most organs, including the cardiovascular system. Endogenous Opioid peptides and their receptors are present in brain areas responsible for cardiovascular control, in the heart, in autonomic ganglia and in the adrenal medulla, and influence and regulate cardiovascular functions both centrally and peripherally. They are involved in the modulation of hypertension and in other pathological cardiovascular conditions such as congestive heart failure and myocardial ischaemia. Endogenous Opioid peptides are released upon myocardial ischaemia and contribute to the development of ischaemic arrhythmias and cardiogenic shock.1-3 Some of these effects are reversed by the opioid antagonist, naloxone.4 Dynorphin, the endogenous ligand for the k-receptors, appears to be the most potent of the endogenous opioid peptides in the induction of cardiac arrhythmias.2 The endogenous opioid peptides also appear to be involved in the pathogenesis of acute myocardial infarction.5 Both δ- and k-receptors are present in the heart,6 and large amounts of mRNA for preproenkephalin A have been identified in ventricular myocytes of rats and hamsters, suggesting that cardiac myocytes are capable of synthesising opioid peptides.7,8


Mean Arterial Pressure Opioid Receptor Histamine Release Opioid Peptide Endogenous Opioid Peptide 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1998

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  • James G. Bovill

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