Minireview. Peptides and the blood-brain barrier

Life Sci. 1983 Jun 6;32(23):2611-23. doi: 10.1016/0024-3205(83)90352-1.


Most neuropeptides are known to occur both in the central nervous system and in blood. This, as well as the occurrence of central nervous peptide effects after peripheral administration, show the importance of studying the relationships between the peptides in the two compartments. For many peptides, such as the enkephalins, TRH, somatostatin and MIF-1, poor penetration of the blood-brain barrier was shown. In other cases, including beta-endorphin and angiotensin, peptides are rapidly degraded during or just after their entry into brain or cerebrospinal fluid. Some peptides, such as insulin, delta-sleep-inducing peptide, and the lipotropin-derived peptides, enter the cerebrospinal fluid to a slight or moderate extent in the intact form. Many peptide hormones, such as insulin, calcitonin and angiotensin, act directly on receptors in the circumventricular organs, where the blood-brain barrier is absent. Oxytocin, vasopressin, MSH, and an MSH-analog alter the properties of the blood-brain barrier, which may result in altered nutritient supply to the brain. In conclusion, the diffusion of most peptides across the brain vascular endothelium seems to be severely restricted. There are, however, several alternative routes for peripheral peptides to act on the central nervous system. The blood-brain barrier is a major obstacle for the development of pharmaceutically useful peptides, as in the case of synthetic enkephalin-analogs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / metabolism
  • Angiotensins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Blood-Brain Barrier*
  • Calcitonin / metabolism
  • Diffusion
  • Eating / drug effects
  • Endorphins / metabolism
  • Enkephalins / metabolism
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormones / metabolism
  • Molecular Weight
  • Oxytocin / metabolism
  • Peptides / metabolism*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Vasopressins / metabolism
  • beta-Endorphin


  • Angiotensins
  • Endorphins
  • Enkephalins
  • Insulin
  • Peptides
  • Vasopressins
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Oxytocin
  • beta-Endorphin
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormones
  • Calcitonin