Neurons which release atrial natriuretic peptide (ANPergic neurons) have their cell bodies in the paraventricular nucleus and in a region extending rostrally and ventrally to the anteroventral third ventricular (AV3V) region with axons which project to the median eminence and neural lobe of the pituitary gland. These neurons act to inhibit water and salt intake by blocking the action of angiotensin II. They also act, after their release into hypophyseal portal vessels, to inhibit stress-induced ACTH release, to augment prolactin release, and to inhibit the release of LHRH and growth hormone-releasing hormone. Stimulation of neurons in the AV3V region causes natriuresis and an increase in circulating ANP, whereas lesions in the AV3V region and caudally in the median eminence or neural lobe decrease resting ANP release and the response to blood volume expansion. The ANP neurons play a crucial role in blood volume expansion-induced release of ANP and natriuresis since this response can be blocked by intraventricular (3V) injection of antisera directed against the peptide. Blood volume expansion activates baroreceptor input via the carotid, aortic and renal baroreceptors, which provides stimulation of noradrenergic neurons in the locus coeruleus and possibly also serotonergic neurons in the raphe nuclei. These project to the hypothalamus to activate cholinergic neurons which then stimulate the ANPergic neurons. The ANP neurons stimulate the oxytocinergic neurons in the paraventricular and supraoptic nuclei to release oxytocin from the neural lobe which circulates to the atria to stimulate the release of ANP. ANP causes a rapid reduction in effective circulating blood volume by releasing cyclic GMP which dilates peripheral vessels and also acts within the heart to slow its rate and atrial force of contraction. The released ANP circulates to the kidney where it acts through cyclic GMP to produce natriuresis and a return to normal blood volum
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