Since the first report about the presence of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) within the gastrointestinal (GI)
tract, accumulating evidence strongly supports the widespread representation of the GABAergic system in the enteric
milieu, underlining its potential multifunctional role in the regulation of GI functions in health and disease.
GABA and GABA receptors are widely distributed throughout the GI tract, constituting a complex network likely
regulating the diverse GI behaviour patterns, cooperating with other major neurotransmitters and mediators for
maintaining GI homeostasis in physiologic and pathologic conditions. GABA is involved in the circuitry of the enteric
nervous system, controlling GI secretion and motility, as well as in the GI endocrine system, possibly acting
as a autocrine/paracrine or hormonal agent. Furthermore, a series of investigations addresses the GABAergic system
as a potential powerful modulator of GI visceral pain processing, enteric immune system and carcinogenesis.
Although overall such actions may imply the consideration of the GABAergic system as a novel therapeutic target in different GI pathologic
states, including GI motor and secretory diseases and different enteric inflammatory- and pain-related pathologies, current clinical
applications of GABAergic drugs are scarce. Thus, in an attempt to propel novel scientific efforts addressing the detailed characterization
of the GABAergic signaling in the GI tract, and consequently the development of novel strategies for the treatment of different GI disorders,
we reviewed and discussed the current evidence about GABA actions in the enteric environment, with a particular focus on their
possible therapeutic implications.