A plethora of neuronal messengers ("classical" transmitters, gaseous messengers, amino acid transmitters, and neuropeptides) are capable of mediating or modulating gastric functions. Accordingly, the stomach is richly innervated. Gastric nerves are either intrinsic to the gastric wall, i.e., they have their cell bodies in the intramural ganglia and thus belong to the enteric nervous system, or they reach the stomach from outside, originating in the brainstem, in sympathetic ganglia, or in sensory ganglia. Topographically, the nerve fibers in the stomach reach all layers from the most superficial portions of the gastric glands to the outer smooth muscle layer. This wide distribution implies that virtually all different cell types may be reached by neuronal messengers. Within the gastric mucosa endocrine and paracrine cells (e.g., gastrin cells, ECL cells, somatostatin cells), exocrine cells (parietal cells, chief cells, mucous cells), smooth muscle cells, and stromal cells are regulated by neuronal messengers. The sensory innervation, responding to capsaicin, plays an important role in mucosal protection, and in ulcer healing. Presumably also other nerves are involved and a plasticity in the neuropeptide expression has been demonstrated at the margin of gastric ulcers. Taken together, available data indicate a complex interplay between hormones, paracrine messengers and neuronal messengers, growth factors and cytokines in the regulation of gastric mucosal activities such as secretion, local blood flow, growth, and restitution after damage.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.