Angiotensin II (AngII) is generally known as the most important dipsogenic hormone throughout vertebrates, while two other neurohypophysial hormones, vasopressin and oxytocin, are not dipsogenic in mammals. In this study, we found that systemic isotocin, but not vasotocin, is the potent dipsogenic hormone in eels. When injected intra-arterially into conscious eels, isotocin, vasotocin and AngII equally increased ventral aortic pressure dose dependently at 0.03–1.0 nmol kg−1, but only isotocin induced copious drinking. The dipsogenic effect was dose dependent and occurred significantly at as low as 0.1 nmol kg−1. By contrast, a sustained inhibition of drinking occurred after AngII injection, probably due to baroreflexogenic inhibition. No such inhibition was observed after isotocin injection despite similar concurrent hypertension. The baroreceptor may exist distal to the gill circulation because the vasopressor effect occurred at both ventral and dorsal aorta after AngII but only at ventral aorta after isotocin. By contrast, intra-cerebroventricular (i.c.v.) injection of isotocin had no effect on drinking or blood pressure, but AngII increased drinking and aortic pressure dose dependently at 0.03–0.3 nmol per eel. Lesioning of the area postrema (AP), a sensory circumventricular organ, abolished drinking induced by peripheral isotocin, but not i.c.v. AngII. Collectively, isotocin seems to be a major circulating hormone that induces swallowing through its action on the AP, while AngII may be an intrinsic brain peptide that induces drinking through its action on a different circumventricular site, possibly a recently identified blood–brain barrier-deficient structure in the antero-ventral third ventricle of eels, as shown in birds and mammals.

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