1. The cardiovascular effects of an enkephalin analogue were examined in spontaneously hypertensive and normotensive Wistar-Kyoto rats. (D-Ala2)-methionine enkephalin caused a biphasic increase in blood pressure and an increase in heart rate after intracerebroventricular injection.
2. The initial pressor response to (D-Ala2)-methionine enkephalin was greater in hypertensive than in normotensive rats. No difference was noted between groups during the secondary pressor response. Heart rate increases paralleled the secondary increase in blood pressure.
3. Naloxone pretreatment abolished the secondary increase in blood pressure and the tachycardia, but did not blunt the initial pressor response in female Wistar-Kyoto rats.
4. Plasma levels of arginine vasopressin were depressed during the plateau phase of the pressor response in hypertensive rats given intracerebroventricular (d-Ala2)-methionine enkephalin.
5. The results suggest that the cardiovascular effects of central enkephalin are not due to vasopressin, but may involve activation of the sympathetic nervous system.