Neuroendocrine control of body fluid metabolism

Physiol Rev. 2004 Jan;84(1):169-208. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00017.2003.


Mammals control the volume and osmolality of their body fluids from stimuli that arise from both the intracellular and extracellular fluid compartments. These stimuli are sensed by two kinds of receptors: osmoreceptor-Na+ receptors and volume or pressure receptors. This information is conveyed to specific areas of the central nervous system responsible for an integrated response, which depends on the integrity of the anteroventral region of the third ventricle, e.g., organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis, median preoptic nucleus, and subfornical organ. The hypothalamo-neurohypophysial system plays a fundamental role in the maintenance of body fluid homeostasis by secreting vasopressin and oxytocin in response to osmotic and nonosmotic stimuli. Since the discovery of the atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), a large number of publications have demonstrated that this peptide provides a potent defense mechanism against volume overload in mammals, including humans. ANP is mostly localized in the heart, but ANP and its receptor are also found in hypothalamic and brain stem areas involved in body fluid volume and blood pressure regulation. Blood volume expansion acts not only directly on the heart, by stretch of atrial myocytes to increase the release of ANP, but also on the brain ANPergic neurons through afferent inputs from baroreceptors. Angiotensin II also plays an important role in the regulation of body fluids, being a potent inducer of thirst and, in general, antagonizes the actions of ANP. This review emphasizes the role played by brain ANP and its interaction with neurohypophysial hormones in the control of body fluid homeostasis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atrial Natriuretic Factor / physiology
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology
  • Body Fluids / metabolism*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neurosecretory Systems / physiology*
  • Oxytocin / physiology
  • Renin-Angiotensin System / physiology
  • Vasopressins / physiology


  • Vasopressins
  • Oxytocin
  • Atrial Natriuretic Factor