The role of vasopressin in the development of gastric hemorrhagic erosions induced by the oral administration of 1 mL of 75% ethanol in rats was studied. The area of the lesions in homozygous Brattleboro rats, having a defective vasopressin synthesis, was only 20% of that found in Wistar and heterozygous Brattleboro rats, which have normal vasopressin production. It is well known that vasopressin acts via the V1 (presser) and V2 (antidiuretic) receptors. Administration of V1 and V2 vasopressin-receptor agonists and antagonists in this model showed that pressor-receptor activity is needed for the generation of all lesions in Wistar and heterozygous Brattleboro rats. Ethanol damage to the gastric mucosa was diminished by the V1 antagonist with similar efficacy as in the case of a vasopressin deficiency. Administration of the V1 antagonist and the absence of endogenous vasopressin were shown to protect the deeper layer of the gastric mucosa (assessed by histology) and to reduce significantly the ethanol-induced vascular injury and increase in vascular permeability (assessed by the monastral blue technique). Thus, endogenous vasopressin is clearly of great importance in the pathogenesis of gastric hemorrhagic lesions induced by ethanol. These results strongly suggest that vasopressin is an endogenous aggressor toward the gastric mucosa.
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