The opioid peptides. A role in hypertension?
This review is an attempt to highlight evidence that may implicate the endogenous opioid system in the pathogenesis of hypertension in humans. The evidence raised includes biochemical, physiological, pharmacological, and behavioral studies conducted in in vitro and in vivo systems, experimental models of hypertension, and humans with essential hypertension. While the compelling biochemical and pharmacological evidence in experimental animals clearly shows the presence of opioid peptides and their receptors in strategic sites of cardiovascular control and potent cardiovascular response to opioid peptides, opioid antagonists show no consistent blockade or reversal of hypertension in experimental animals or humans. One possible explanation for this phenomenon could be the vast redundancy in systems regulating blood pressure (i.e., the blockade of one system still leaves many other systems fully able to rapidly offset the eliminated system). Regarding the opioid system, the situation is much more complex, since some opioid receptors (mu-type) mediate pressor responses, while other receptors (kappa-type) mediate depressor responses. Therefore, nonselective opioid receptor antagonists (e.g., naloxone), which block both types of receptors, can be devoid of any cardiovascular activity, while a selective mu-receptor antagonist or a selective and potent kappa-receptor agonist may produce the desired antihypertensive effect. A combination of both actions (i.e., a drug that is both a mu-antagonist and a kappa-agonist) might be even more advantageous. Until such compounds are developed, this hypothesis will be hard to prove.
- Copyright © 1987 by American Heart Association