In the normal heart, the endocrine capacity resides in the atria. Atrial myocytes express and secrete natriuretic hormones that regulate fluid homeostasis and blood pressure. But in ventricular disease, atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) and B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) gene expression is also activated in ventricular myocytes. Plasma concentrations of natriuretic peptides and their biosynthetic precursors are accordingly increased in patients with marked ventricular dysfunction. In contrast, atrial peptide secretion in ventricular disease has received less attention, and our present understanding of the endocrine atria during ventricular dysfunction is still scarce. Although ventricular disease and increased circulating concentrations are associated, it does not entail that the ventricle is the sole or even the main source in all types of heart disease. Clearly, the endocrine atria are also active in heart failure. Plasma measurement of cardiac natriuretic peptides and their molecular precursors can perhaps help us to discriminate when, where and how.
Keywords: Atrial Fibrillation; Heart Atria; Heart Failure; Humans; Microscopy, Confocal; Myocytes, Cardiac; Natriuretic Peptide, Brain