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Autacoids or "autocoids" are biological factors (molecules) which act like local hormones, have a brief duration, and act near their site of synthesis.[1] The word autacoid comes from the Greek "autos" (self) and "acos" (relief; i.e., drug). The effects of autacoids are primarily local, though large quantities can be produced and moved into circulation.[citation needed] Autacoids may thus have systemic effects by being transported via the circulation. These regulating molecules are also metabolized locally. In sum, these compounds typically are produced locally,[citation needed] act locally and are metabolized locally. Autacoids can have a variety of different biological actions, including modulating the activities of smooth muscles, glands, nerves, platelets and other tissues.[citation needed]

Some autacoids are chiefly characterized by the effect they have on specific tissues, such as smooth muscle.[2] With respect to vascular smooth muscle, there exist both vasoconstrictor and vasodilator autacoids. Vasodilator autacoids are released during periods of exercise. Their main effect is seen in the skin, where they facilitate heat loss.

These are local hormones; they therefore have a paracrine effect. Some notable autacoids are: eicosanoids, angiotensin, neurotensin, NO (nitric oxide), kinins, histamine, serotonin, endothelins and palmitoylethanolamide.

Recently, research on autacoids has given rise to the nascent field of "Autacoid Medicine,"[3] particularly since new lipid autacoids have been found to be of utility in the treatment of chronic disorders, where inflammation plays a role. In 2015, a new definition of autacoids was proposed, which helps to more specifically describe Autacoid Medicine: '“Autacoids are a locally produced modulating factors, influencing locally the function of cells and/or tissues, which are produced on demand and which subsequently are metabolized in the same cells and/or tissues".[4]


  1. ^ Franklin A. Ahrens (1 October 1996). Pharmacology. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 45–. ISBN 978-0-683-00085-6. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  2. ^ Autacoids at the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
  3. ^
  4. ^ Keppel Hesselink, JM. "The terms 'autacoid', 'hormone' and 'chalone' and how they have shifted with time". Auton Autacoid Pharmacol. 35: 51–8. doi:10.1111/aap.12037. PMID 27028114.