Endothelin (ET), originally characterized as a 21-residue vasoconstrictor peptide from endothelial cells, is present in the porcine spinal cord and may act as a neuropeptide. Endothelin-like immunoreactivity has now been demonstrated by immunohistochemistry in the paraventricular and supraoptic nuclear neurons and their terminals in the posterior pituitary of the pig and the rat. The presence of ET in the porcine hypothalamus was confirmed by reversed-phase high-pressure liquid chromatography and radioimmunoassay. Moreover, in situ hybridization demonstrated ET messenger RNA in porcine paraventricular nuclear neurons. Endothelin-like immunoreactive products in the posterior pituitary of the rat were depleted by water deprivation, suggesting a release of ET under physiological conditions. These findings indicate that ET is synthesized in the posterior pituitary system and may be involved in neurosecretory functions.

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