, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 873-878,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 05 Nov 2011

Low Densities of Serotonin and Peptide YY Cells in the Colon of Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome



The gut hormones are important in regulating gastrointestinal motility. Disturbances in gastrointestinal motility have been reported in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Reduced endocrine cell density, as revealed by chromogranin A, has been reported in the colon of IBS patients.


To investigate a possible abnormality in the colonic endocrine cells of IBS patients.


A total of 41 patients with IBS according to Rome Criteria III and 20 controls were included in the study. Biopsies from the right and left colon were obtained from both patients and controls during colonoscopy. The biopsies were immunostained for serotonin, peptide YY (PYY), pancreatic polypeptide (PP), entroglucagon, and somatostatin cells. Cell densities were quantified by computerized image analysis.


Serotonin and PYY cell densities were reduced in the colon of IBS patients. PP, entroglucagon, and somatostatin-immunoreactive cells were too few to enable reliable quantification.


The cause of these observations could be primary genetic defect(s), secondary to altered serotonin and/or PYY signaling systems and/or subclinical inflammation. Serotonin activates the submucosal sensory branch of the enteric nervous system and controls gastrointestinal motility and chloride secretion via interneurons and motor neurons. PYY stimulates absorption of water and electrolytes, and inhibits prostaglandin (PG) E2, and vasoactive intestinal peptide, which stimulates intestinal fluid secretion and is a major regulator of the “ileal brake”. Although the cause and effect relationship of these findings is difficult to elucidate, the abnormalities reported here might contribute to the symptoms associated with IBS.