Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript: distribution and function in rat gastrointestinal tract

Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2003 Oct;15(5):545-57. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2982.2003.00437.x.


Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript (CART) peptide, originally isolated from brain, is also expressed in the peripheral nervous system. The distribution, origin and projections of CART-expressing enteric neurones by immunocytochemistry and in situ hybridization in rat gastrointestinal (GI) tract were studied. Possible motor functions of CART were studied in vitro using longitudinal muscle strips from stomach, ileum and colon. Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript peptide was found in numerous myenteric neurones throughout the GI tract while CART-expressing submucous neurones were scarce. Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript was also expressed in the antral gastrin cells. Myenteric CART-expressing neurones in both small and large intestine issued short descending projections. In atrophic ileum, CART mRNA-expressing neurones increased in number while neurones containing CART peptide decreased. In hypertrophied ileum, no change in CART peptide or CART mRNA containing myenteric neurones was detected. Cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript 55-102 (10(-9)-10(-7) mol L-1) did not induce any contractile or relaxatory responses in the muscle strips, neither did it affect responses induced by vasoactive intestinal peptide, pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating peptide or neuronal stimulation. In colonic, but not in ileal, strips addition of CART attenuated nitric oxide (NO) donor-induced relaxations. Although CART does not seem to play a pivotal role in classic neurotransmission to the longitudinal muscle, it may serve a modulatory role in NO transmission. It may, moreover, be involved in intestinal adaptation, and an additional hormonal role is also possible.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / chemistry*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiology*
  • Muscle Relaxation / drug effects
  • Muscle Relaxation / physiology
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / analysis*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / pharmacology
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • cocaine- and amphetamine-regulated transcript protein