Neuropeptides in the cerebral circulation

Cerebrovasc Brain Metab Rev. Fall 1989;1(3):230-52.


The occurrence and distribution of peptide-containing nerve fibers to the cerebral circulation are described. Immunocytochemical studies have revealed that cerebral blood vessels are invested with nerve fibers containing neuropeptide Y (NPY), vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), peptide histidine isoleucine (PHI), substance P (SP), neurokinin A (NKA), and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). In addition, there are studies reporting the occurrence of putative neurotransmitters such as cholecystokinin, dynorphin B, galanin, gastrin releasing peptide, vasopressin, neurotensin, and somatostatin. The nerves occur as a longitudinally oriented network around large cerebral arteries. There is often a richer supply of nerve fibers around arteries than veins. The origin of these nerve fibers has been studied by retrograde tracing and denervation experiments. These techniques, in combination with immunocytochemistry, have revealed a rather extensive innervation pattern. Several ganglia, such as the superior cervical ganglion, the sphenopalatine ganglion, the otic ganglion, and small local ganglia at the base of the skull, contribute to the innervation. Sensory fibers seem to derive from the trigeminal ganglion, the jugular-nodose ganglionic complex, and from dorsal root ganglia at level C2. The noradrenergic and most of the NPY fibers derive from the superior cervical ganglion. A minor population of the NPY-containing fibers contains VIP instead of NA and emanates from the sphenopalatine ganglion. The cholinergic and the VIP-containing fibers derive from the sphenopalatine ganglion, the otic ganglion, and from small local ganglia at the base of the skull. Most of the SP-, NKA-, and CGRP-containing fibers derive from the trigeminal ganglion. Minor contributions may emanate from the jugular-nodose ganglionic complex and from the spinal dorsal root ganglia. NPY is a potent vasoconstrictor in vitro and in situ. VIP, PHI, SP, NKA, and CGRP act via different mechanisms to induce cerebrovascular dilatation. The sympathetic, the parasympathetic, and the sensory systems appear to be involved in modulating cerebrovascular tone in hypertension and in conditions of threatening vasoconstriction, e.g., subarachnoid hemorrhage and migraine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neuropeptides / physiology*


  • Neuropeptides