Pharmacology of moxonidine, an I1-imidazoline receptor agonist

D. Ziegler, M. A. Haxhiu, E. C. Kaan, J. G. Papp, P. Ernsberger

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Moxonidine is a second-generation, centrally acting antihypertensive drug with a distinctive mode of action. Moxonidine activates I1-imidazoline receptors (I1-receptors) in the rostroventrolateral medulla (RVLM), thereby reducing the activity of the sympathetic nervous system. Moxonidine leads to a pronounced and long-lasting blood pressure reduction in different animal models of hypertension, e.g., spontaneously hypertensive rats, renal hypertensive rats, and renal hypertensive dogs. Blood pressure reduction with moxonidine is usually accompanied by a reduction in heart rate which, however, in most studies is of shorter duration and lesser magnitude than the fall in blood pressure. Chronic administration of moxonidine to SHRs with established hypertension causes normalization of myocardial fibrosis, capillarization, and regressive changes in myocytes, in parallel with the reduction of blood pressure. Left ventricular hypertrophy and renal glomerulosclerosis are also significantly reduced. After withdrawal of chronic moxonidine treatment, blood pressure gradually rises to pretreatment values. Direct injection of moxonidine into the vertebral artery of cats elicits a more pronounced fall in blood pressure compared with i.v. injection of an equivalent dose. This observation and others clearly indicate that moxonidine's antihypertensive activity is centrally mediated. The RVLM is the site of action within the CNS that mediates pronounced blood pressure reduction after direct administration of moxonidine into the RVLM of anesthetized SHRs. Selective I1-receptor antagonists introduced into this area abolish the action of systemic moxonidine. Receptor binding studies have shown high and selective affinity of moxonidine for I1-receptors vs. α2- adrenergic receptors. In vivo studies using a variety of selective I1 or α2-adrenergic agonists and antagonists have confirmed the primary role of I1-receptors in blood pressure regulation by moxonidine. In addition to lowering blood pressure, moxonidine possesses further properties that appear likely to be relevant in its therapeutic application in the hypertensive syndrome. Moxonidine increases urine flow rate and sodium excretion after central and direct iontrarenal administration. It is active against ventricular arrhythmias in a variety of experimental settings. It lacks the respiratory depressant effects attributed to central α2 activation. It exerts beneficial effects on glucose metabolism and blood lipids in genetically hypertensive obese rats. It exhibits anti-ulcer activity. And, finally, moxonidine lower intraocular pressure, suggesting a possible benefit in glaucoma. Therefore, moxonidine, by its novel mode of action, represents a new therapeutic principle in the treatment of hypertension. Because of its unique profile, moxonidine may prove to be effective in slowing progression of the disease by providing protective effects beyond merely blood pressure reduction. Further studies are needed to verify this potential.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S26-S37
JournalJournal of cardiovascular pharmacology
Issue numberSUPPL. 3
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 1996



  • Hypertension
  • I-Receptors
  • Moxonidine
  • Review
  • Rostroventrolateral medulla oblongata
  • α-Adrenergic receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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