Endogenous opioid peptides in parasympathetic, sympathetic and sensory nerves in the guinea-pig heart

Cell Tissue Res. 1996 May;284(2):331-9. doi: 10.1007/s004410050593.


Research has suggested that exogenous opioid substances can have direct effects on cardiac muscle or influence neurotransmitter release via presynaptic modulation of neuronal inputs to the heart. In the present study, multiple-labelling immunohistochemistry was employed to determine the distribution of endogenous opioid peptides within the guinea-pig heart. Approximately 40% of cardiac ganglion cells contained immunoreactivity for dynorphin A (1-8), dynorphin A (1-17) and dynorphin B whilst 20% displayed leu-enkephalin immunoreactivity. Different populations of opioid-containing ganglion cells were identified according to the co-existence of opioid immunoreactivity with immunoreactivity for somatostatin and neuropeptide Y. Immunoreactivity for prodynorphin-derived peptides was observed in many sympathetic axons in the heart and was also observed, though to a lesser extent, in sensory axons. Leu-enkephalin immunoreactivity was observed in occasional sympathetic and sensory axons. No immunoreactivity was observed for met-enkephalin-arg-gly-leu or for beta-endorphin. These results demonstrate that prodynorphin-derived peptides are present in parasympathetic, sympathetic and sensory nerves within the heart, but suggest that only the prodynorphin gene is expressed in guinea-pig cardiac nerves. This study has shown that endogenous opioid peptides are well placed to regulate cardiac function via both autonomic and sensory pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Fibers / chemistry*
  • Animals
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Axons / chemistry
  • Dynorphins / analysis
  • Dynorphins / immunology
  • Endorphins / analysis
  • Endorphins / immunology
  • Enkephalin, Leucine / analysis
  • Enkephalin, Leucine / immunology
  • Enkephalin, Methionine / analogs & derivatives
  • Enkephalin, Methionine / analysis
  • Enkephalin, Methionine / immunology
  • Enkephalins / analysis
  • Enkephalins / immunology
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Autonomic / chemistry
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Heart / innervation*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Neurons, Afferent / chemistry*
  • Opioid Peptides / analysis*
  • Parasympathetic Fibers, Postganglionic / chemistry*
  • Protein Precursors / analysis
  • Protein Precursors / immunology
  • beta-Endorphin / analysis
  • beta-Endorphin / immunology


  • Endorphins
  • Enkephalins
  • Opioid Peptides
  • Protein Precursors
  • Enkephalin, Methionine
  • Enkephalin, Leucine
  • beta-Endorphin
  • Dynorphins
  • enkephalin-Met, Arg(6)-Gly(7)-Leu(8)-
  • rimorphin
  • preproenkephalin