Gastrointestinal (GI) smooth muscle cell activity is controlled by contractile cholinergic neurons and relaxant non-adrenergic non-cholinergic (NANC) neurons in the myenteric plexus between the circular and longitudinal muscle layer. Decreased or increased NANC relaxation might be involved in the pathophysiology of functional GI motility disorders. Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) and nitric oxide (NO) are the primary inhibitory NANC neurotransmitters. As classic neurotransmitters, VIP is stored in vesicles in the nerve endings, while NO is synthetized on demand by the neuronal isoform of NO synthase (nNOS). The VIP / nNOS co-localization in myenteric neurons, reported for various regions of the GI tract in different species, suggests that VIP and NO are co-transmitters. At the presynaptic level, VIP and NO can induce each others release. Most clear-cut evidence for this mechanism was obtained in isolated myenteric ganglia where VIP induced NO release, and NO facilitated VIP release. At the postsynaptic level, many studies support that VIP and NO are parallel co-transmitters, acting via the adenylate cyclase / 35 adenosine cyclic monophosphate (cAMP) and guanylate cyclase / 35 cyclic guanosine monophosphate pathway respectively. Mainly based on results obtained in isolated GI smooth muscle cells, a serial postsynaptic VIP / NO interaction model was proposed, whereby VIP is the principle neurotransmitter, acting partially via a VPAC receptor and the adenylate cyclase / cAMP pathway but also by induction of muscular NO production. Recent results suggest that the capacity of VIP to release NO from isolated smooth muscle cells is related to the induction of inducible NOS (iNOS) in the cells during the isolation procedure. The relative contribution of NO and VIP to GI NANC relaxation differs upon tissue and nerve firing frequency, so that interference with either of them will lead to varying effects.
Keywords: nitric oxide, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide, gastrointestinal, relaxation, interaction, presynaptic, postsynaptic
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