The neurohypophysial hormone arginine vasopressin (AVP) is essential for a wide range of physiological functions, including water reabsorption, cardiovascular homeostasis, hormone secretion, and social behavior. These and other actions of AVP are mediated by at least three distinct receptor subtypes: V1a, V1b, and V2. Although the antidiuretic action of AVP and V2 receptor in renal distal tubules and collecting ducts is relatively well understood, recent years have seen an increasing understanding of the physiological roles of V1a and V1b receptors. The V1a receptor is originally found in the vascular smooth muscle and the V1b receptor in the anterior pituitary. Deletion of V1a or V1b receptor genes in mice revealed that the contributions of these receptors extend far beyond cardiovascular or hormone-secreting functions. Together with extensively developed pharmacological tools, genetically altered rodent models have advanced the understanding of a variety of AVP systems. Our report reviews the findings in this important field by covering a wide range of research, from the molecular physiology of V1a and V1b receptors to studies on whole animals, including gene knockout/knockdown studies.
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