Urocortin 1, a human homologue of fish urotensin I, together with its related-compounds (urocortins 2 and 3), comprises a distinct family of stress peptides. Urocortin 1 has a high affinity for both corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) type 1 receptor (CRF1) and CRF type 2 receptor (CRF2), and urocortins 2 and 3 have a high affinity for CRF2, while CRF has a low affinity for CRF2and a high affinity for CRF1. These differences of the binding affinity with receptors make the biological actions of these peptides. Besides the binding affinity with receptors, the limited overlap of the distribution of CRF and urocortins may also contribute to the differences of physiological roles of each peptide. Urocortins show 'stress-coping' responses such as anxiolysis and dearousal in the brain. In the periphery, recent studies show the potent effects of urocortins on the cardiovascular and immune systems. In this review article, we take a look over the series of peptides included in this family, especially in terms of the versatility of biological actions, along with the various characters of the receptors. © 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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