The brain pathways involved in the control of arterial blood pressure and sympathetic nerve activity are distributed throughout the central nervous system and are organized in topographically selective ensembles of premotor neurons. There is increasing evidence to support the notion that increased sympathetic nerve activity plays an important role in the pathogenesis of human and experimental hypertension. In this review, we will focus on the importance of two distinct populations of sympathetic premotor neurons, those of the rostral ventrolateral medulla and those of the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus, in the genesis and maintenance of experimental hypertension. The rostral ventrolateral medulla and paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus contain the principal premotor neurons involved in the modulation of sympathetic vasomotor tone and arterial blood pressure. Therefore, changes in the excitatory or inhibitory neurotransmission within these two nuclei might constitute a mechanism that is essential for the development and maintenance of hypertension. The present review addresses this hypothesis.
Keywords: Glutamate, ventrolateral medulla, paraventricular nucleus, GABA, angiotensin II, sympathetic nervous system.