Brain-gut axis in pancreatic secretion and appetite control

J Physiol Pharmacol. 2003 Sep;54(3):293-317.


The stimulation of exocrine pancreatic secretion that has been attributed by Pavlov exclusively to various reflexes (nervism), was then found that it depend also on numerous enterohormones, especially cholecystokinin (CCK) and secretin, released by duodeno-jejunal mucosa and originally believed to act via an endocrine pathway. Recently, CCK and other enterohormones were found to stimulate the pancreas by excitation of sensory nerves and triggering vago-vagal and entero-pancreatic reflexes. Numerous neurotransmitters and neuropeptides released by enteric nervous system (ENS) of gut and pancreas have been also implicated in the regulation of exocrine pancreas. This article was designed to review the contribution of vagal nerves and entero-hormones, especially CCK and other enterohormones, involved in the control of appetitive behavior such as leptin and ghrelin and pancreatic polypeptide family (peptide YY and neuropeptide Y). Basal secretion shows periodic fluctuations with peals controlled by ENS and by motilin and Ach. Plasma ghrelin, that is considered as hunger hormone, increases under basal conditions, while plasma leptin falls to the lowest level. Postprandial pancreatic secretion, classically divided into cephalic, gastric and intestinal phases, involves predominantly CCK, which under physiological conditions acts almost entirely by activation of vago-vagal reflexes to stimulate the exocrine pancreas, being accompanied by the fall in plasma ghrelin and increase of plasma leptin, reflecting feeding behavior. We conclude that the major role in postprandial pancreatic secretion is played by vagus and gastrin in cephalic and gastric phases and by vagus in conjunction with CCK and secretin in intestinal phase. PP, PYY somatostatin, leptin and ghrelin that affect food intake appear to participate in the feedback control of postprandial pancreatic secretion via hypothalamic centers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Appetite Regulation / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Digestive System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Pancreas / metabolism*