Vasopressin: physiology, assessment and osmosensation

J Intern Med. 2017 Oct;282(4):284-297. doi: 10.1111/joim.12645. Epub 2017 Jul 26.


Vasopressin (AVP) plays a major role in the regulation of water and sodium homeostasis by its antidiuretic action on the kidney, mediated by V2 receptors. AVP secretion is stimulated by a rise in plasma osmolality, a decline in blood volume or stress. V1a receptors are expressed in vascular smooth muscle cells, but the role of vasopressin in blood pressure regulation is still a matter of debate. AVP may also play a role in some metabolic pathways, including gluconeogenesis, through its action on V1a receptors expressed in the liver. It is now understood that thirst and arginine vasopressin (AVP) release are regulated not only by the classical homeostatic, intero-sensory plasma osmolality negative feedback, but also by novel, extero-sensory, anticipatory signals. AVP measurement is time-consuming, and AVP level in the blood in the physiological range is often below the detection limit of the assays. Recently, an immunoassay has been developed for the measurement of copeptin, a fragment of the pre-provasopressin molecule that is easier to measure. It has been shown to be a good surrogate marker of AVP.

Keywords: copeptin; hypothalamus; kidney; osmolality; thirst; vasopressin receptors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drinking / physiology
  • Eating / physiology
  • Glycopeptides / blood
  • Glycopeptides / physiology
  • Humans
  • Islets of Langerhans / physiology
  • Kidney / physiology
  • Liver / physiology
  • Osmoregulation / physiology*
  • Receptors, Vasopressin / physiology
  • Thirst / physiology
  • Vasopressins / physiology*


  • Glycopeptides
  • Receptors, Vasopressin
  • copeptins
  • Vasopressins