Opioid peptide involvement in the fall in blood pressure resulting from stimulation of alpha-receptors in the brainstem has been investigated in the urethane-anaesthetised rat. Unilateral microinjection of alpha-methylnoradrenaline into the nucleus tractus solitarii (NTS) induced a doserelated fall in blood pressure and heart rate. The depressor response induced by the amine was prevented by pretreatment with naloxone, administered either subcutaneously or directly into the nucleus. Pretreatment with antiserum to beta-endorphin, applied locally, also blocked the depressor response, however a similar dilution of antiserum to met-enkephalin was ineffective in this respect. The local application of phentolamine into the n. tractus solitarii caused an initial fall in both blood pressure and heart rate, and blocked the cardiovascular changes induced by alpha-methylnoradrenaline for at least 90 min. Pretreatment with the alpha-receptor antagonist attenuated the fall in blood pressure produced by microinjection of beta-endorphin. These results suggest that the fall in blood pressure observed after administration of alpha-methylnoradrenaline involves a beta-endorphin-like peptide, a probable site of this interaction being the n. tractus solitarii
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