Neural Secretions and Regulation of Gut Functions

  • Menizibeya Osain WelcomeEmail author


Neural secretions of the gut are substances released from the neurons or nerve terminals of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to regulate the functioning of the GI system as well as extragut tissues and organs. The neural secretions may be mediated and released centrally or peripherally to act on the GI tract and extragut tissues/organs. The central neural secretions that act on the gut are mediated by the brain and spinal cord, whereas peripherally mediated neural secretions are regulated and released from the intrinsic nervous system of the gut (enteric nervous system) and extrinsic nervous system. Progressive advancement of knowledge on neural secretions of the gut was dictated mainly by technological progress. This area of study (regarding neural secretions and regulation of gut) has increasingly been recognized as a new field of science called neurogastroenterology. The science of neural secretions and regulation of GI functioning began around the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries. The founding fathers of this new science were William Maddock Bayliss (1860–1924), Ernest Henry Starling (1866–1927), Georg Meissner (1829–1905), Leopold Auerbach (1828–1897), Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852–1934), Alexander Stanislavovich Dogiel (1852–1922), John Newport Langley (1852–1925), Paul Trendelenburg (1884–1931), and Harold Hirschsprung (1830–1916) among others. The second half of the twentieth century was marked by substantial advancement in neurogastroenterology, and generally in science. Development of the broader field “gastroenteroneuro endocrinology,” which comprises neurogastroenterology and gut endocrinology, was enhanced by progress in genetics and molecular biology pioneered by James Watson (1928–), Francis Crick (1916–2004), and Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins (1916–2004); peptide biochemistry, and the invention of the radioimmunoassay, which enabled the measurement of minute quantities of neuropeptides. The gut produces over 50 types of neural secretions (neurotransmitters, neuromodulators), and tens of different types of neurons have been identified in the gut alone. This makes the gut one of the most important organs that can mediate neural signals at the peripheral level and in extragut tissues and organs such as the brain and adipose tissues. With extensively growing data on neurotransmitters of the gut and their functions, it is necessary to provide state-of-the-art information on neural secretions of the gut and their mechanisms of regulation. This chapter provides contemporary information on fundamental aspects of the neural secretions of the gut, gives an account of the course of discovery of these secretions (neurotransmitters) of the gut, and provides the mechanisms of neural regulation of GI functions. The clinical importance of the neurotransmitters is systematically described.


Neural secretions Mediator Neurotransmitter Hormone Neuromodulator Gastrin-releasing peptide (human bombesin) The amphibian Acetylcholine ATP Serotonin 5-hydroxytryptamine Histamine 2-(1H-imidazol-4-yl) ethanamine Γ-aminobutyric acid Tachykinins Substance P Neurokinin A Β-tachykinin (neurokinin B or neuropeptide beta) Γ-tachykinin (also called gamma-neuropeptide) Norepinephrine (noradrenaline or noradrenalin) Epinephrine (adrenalin or adrenaline) Neurotensin Glutamate Neuropeptide Y or neuropeptide tyrosine Peptide YY Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide Peptide histidine isoleucine or peptide histidine isoleucinamide Peptide histidine methionine or peptide MI Peptide histidine valine or peptide HV Pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating peptide Calcitonin gene-related peptide Nitric oxide Carbon monoxide Hydrogen sulfide Enkephalins Β-endorphin Dynorphin Anandamide 2-arachidonoylglycerol Virodhamine (O-arachidonoyl-ethanolamine) Noladin (2-arachidonyl-glyceryl ether) And N-arachidonoyl dopamine Ajay Verma Alan N. Taylor Alfred Nobel Anne Marie Staub Candace Beebe Pert Cyrus Hartwell Fiske Daniel Bovet Ferid Murad George Barger Hans Walter Kosterlitz Henry Hallett Dale John Hughes John Jacob Abel Julius Axelrod Karl Lohmann Kazuhiko Tatemoto Kikunae Ikeda Lev Popielskij (Leon Popielski) Louis J. Ignarro Mats Carlquist Otto Loewi Raphael Mechoulam Robert E. Carraway Robert Francis Furchgott Robert H. Wasserman Sami I. Said Sir Bernard Katz Sir John Henry Gaddum Sir Patrick Playfair Laidlaw Solomon Halbert Snyder Susan E. Leeman Thomas J Mcdonald Ulf Svante Von Euler Viktor Mutt Vittorio Erspamer Yechiel Gaoni Yellagaprada SubbaRow 



5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin)




Acetyl co-enzyme A




Acetylcholine receptor


Adenosine diphosphate




Angiotensin receptor blocker


Adenosine triphosphate

BB-3 or BRS-3

Bombesin receptor subtype 3


Calcium ion


Cyclic adenosine monophosphate


Choline acetyltransferase


Calcitonin gene-related peptide


Carbon monoxide








Γ-aminobutyric acid

Gq/11-type G proteins

Gq type G protein


Gastrin-releasing peptide


GRP receptors


Hydrogen sulfide




Irritable bowel syndrome


Inositol triphosphate


Potassium ion


Inward-rectifier potassium ion channel or GIRK (G protein inwardly rectifying potassium channel)



M4, M3

Subtypes of muscarine-sensitive acetylcholine receptors


Muscarinic acetylcholine receptor


Sodium ion


Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor


N-arachidonoyl dopamine


Nitric oxide


Neuropeptide Y or neuropeptide tyrosine


Pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating peptide

Peptide HI or PHI

Peptide histidine isoleucin or peptide histidine isoleucinamide


Peptide histidine methionine or peptide MI


Peptide histidine valine or peptide HV


Phospholipase C


Pertussis toxin


Peptide YY


Renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system


Serotonin reuptake transporter



TpH1, TpH2

Tryptophan hydroxylases


Vesicular ACh transporter


Voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels


Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide


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