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Autacoids or "autocoids" are biological factors which act like local hormones, have a brief duration, and act near the site of synthesis.[1] The word autacoids comes from the Greek "autos" (self) and "acos" (relief, i.e. drug). The effect of autacoids are mostly localized but large amounts can be produced and moved into circulation. Autacoids may thus have systemic effect by being transported via circulation. These regulating molecules are also metabolized locally. So the compounds are produced locally, they act locally and are metabolised locally. Autacoids can have many different biological actions including modulation of the activity of smooth muscles, glands, nerves, platelets and other tissues.

Some other autacoids are primarily characterized by the effect they have upon different tissues, such as smooth muscle.[2] With respect to vascular smooth muscle, there are both vasoconstrictor and vasodilator autacoids.

Vasodilator autacoids can be released during periods of exercise. Their main effect is seen in the skin, allowing for heat loss.

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

A recent field of 'Autacoid Medicine'[3] is rising, especially since new lipid autacoids have been found to be of particular interest 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.