Central regulation of hepatic function by neuropeptides

J Gastroenterol. 2001 Jun;36(6):361-7. doi: 10.1007/s005350170079.


In addition to classical neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine and noradrenaline, neuropeptides have been recognized as new neurotransmitters and neuromodulators. Neuropeptides are widely distributed in the central nervous system as well as in peripheral nerves, and act as neurotransmitters to regulate various physiological functions. The digestive organs are no exception, and several neuropeptides in the central nervous system are shown to act in specific brain sites and control gastrointestinal functions, such as gastric acid secretion, and gastrointestinal motility, through the autonomic nervous system. Recently, a relationship between central neuropeptides and hepatic function through the autonomic nervous system has been revealed in animal models. Thyrotropin-releasing hormone acts in the medulla, in particular in the left dorsal vagal complex, to induce stimulation of hepatic blood flow and hepatic proliferation, and protect against experimental liver injury through vagal and cholinergic pathways. Corticotropin-releasing factor injected intracisternally elicits inhibition of the hepatic blood flow and exacerbates experimental liver injury through sympathetic and noradrenergic pathways. Neuropeptide Y acts in the left dorsal vagal complex, in particular in regard to the Y1 receptor subtype, to stimulate bile secretion. Other neuropeptides such as beta-endorphin and bombesin in the brain modulate hepatic proliferation and bile secretion. Through the use of neuropeptides, new knowledge of the central and peripheral mechanisms underlying brain regulation of hepatic function will be revealed. Further studies in regard to the physiological relevance of the central action of neuropeptides on specific brain sites should be performed to unravel the underlying pathways that mediate brain-liver interaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Central Nervous System / drug effects
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / physiology
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Liver / innervation*
  • Liver / physiology*
  • Neuropeptide Y / physiology
  • Neuropeptides / physiology*
  • Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone / physiology


  • Neuropeptide Y
  • Neuropeptides
  • Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone