, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 223-230

Molecular characterization and distribution of motilin family receptors in the human gastrointestinal tract

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Motilin and ghrelin have been recognized as important endogenous regulators of gastrointestinal motor function in mammals, mediated respectively by the motilin receptor and by the closely related ghrelin receptor. The aims of this study were to explore the distribution of motilin and ghrelin receptors along the human gastrointestinal tract and to establish the molecular nature of the human motilin receptor.


Post mortem and surgical human tissue specimens with no hemorrhage, necrosis, or tumor were obtained from various parts of the gastrointestinal tract. We analyzed levels of expression of mRNA for motilin and ghrelin receptors and examined their molecular identities. Portions of some specimens were also studied by immunohistochemistry for expression of the motilin and ghrelin receptor.


The long form of the motilin receptor, but not the short form, was expressed in all parts of the gastrointestinal tract, and expressed at higher levels in muscle than in mucosa. Motilin receptor immunoreactivity was present in muscle cells and the myenteric plexus, but not in mucosal or submucosal cells. In contrast, ghrelin receptor mRNA was expressed equally in all parts of the gastrointestinal tract, with similar levels of expression in mucosal and muscle layers.


Both the motilin and ghrelin receptors are expressed along the human gastrointestinal tract, but they have clearly distinct distributions in regard to both level and layer. The diffuse muscle expression of the motilin receptor, at both the levels of the gene and the protein product, along the entire gastrointestinal tract makes it a useful potential target for motilide drugs for dysmotility.