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Vasopressin is a peptide and is also known as antidiuretic hormone (ADH), adiuretin, vasopressin (INN), or arginine vasopressin (AVP).

It is closely related to oxytocin and, like it, is produced in the hypothalamus (1st stage of the HPA axis) and stored in the pituitary gland (2nd stage of the HPA axis) until released.

1. Vasopressin formation

Vasopressin formation is stimulated by

  • Increase in osmotic concentration of body fluids
  • Lack of volume of body fluids
  • Blood pressure drop
  • Load
    • Stress1
    • Trauma
    • Pain
    • Nausea
    • Intense stimuli
      • Olfactory
      • Visual
      • Auditory
    • Intense orthostatic load
      • Especially presyncopal (in case of impending orthostatic collapse2

Increase rapidly to well over ten times the control value.

2. Inhibition of vasopressin

Vasopressin formation is inhibited by

  • Signals from cardiovascular baroreceptors (tonic inhibition)
    • Blood pressure increase inhibits, blood pressure decrease promotes vasopressin synthesis (disinhibition)
  • Atriopeptin
  • Alcohol

3. Degradation of vasopressin

  • Low half-life of 2 - 5 minutes
  • Degradation primarily in liver and kidney

4. Effect of vasopressin

  • Vasopressin reduces water excretion in the kidney via V2 receptors
  • High vasopressin concentration acts by means of V1 receptors
    • Vasoconstrictor (vasoconstrictor)
    • Hypertensive
  • Vasopressin is part of a stress axis
    • Acts together with classic stress hormones such as adrenaline or cortisol.

Vasopressin activates the adrenal gland, unlike oxytocin.
Vasopressin synergistically with CRH causes the release of ACTH.3
Vasopressin is secreted more in males (especially from the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) and supraoptic cells of the hypothalamus) than in females, whereas oxytocin is secreted more in females than in males. 4
While estrogen and progesterone arguably affect oxytocin release in women, this does not appear to be the case with vasopressin.4
Vasopressin mediates anxiety. A selective vasopressin V1b receptor antagonist has anxiolytic and antidepressant effects.5

Vasopressin correlates positively with

  • Aggressiveness (vasopressin in cerebrospinal fluid and hostile behavior toward fellow human beings)
  • Learning and memory (positive correlation)

Vasopressin increases the availability of magnesium in cells.

Vasopressin stimulates the proliferation of osteoblasts and cartilage cells in the growth plates, thereby promoting bone formation.
Rats with a mutation of the vasopressin gene causing massive vasopressin deficiency showed behavior characterized by hypoarousal and increased thirst. Artificial vasopressin elevation in magnocellular cells and in their projection to the PVN (paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus) reduced thirst but did not alter hypoarousal behavior, so this is probably caused by vasopressin deficiency in other brain regions.6

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