Tachykinin NK2 receptor antagonists for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome

Br J Pharmacol. 2004 Apr;141(8):1249-63. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjp.0705751. Epub 2004 Mar 22.


Tachykinin NK2 receptors are expressed in the gastrointestinal tract of both laboratory animals and humans. Experimental data indicate a role for these receptors in the regulation of intestinal motor functions (both excitatory and inhibitory), secretions, inflammation and visceral sensitivity. In particular, NK2 receptor stimulation inhibits intestinal motility by activating sympathetic extrinsic pathways or NANC intramural inhibitory components, whereas a modulatory effect on cholinergic nerves or a direct effect on smooth muscle account for the NK2 receptor-mediated increase in intestinal motility. Accordingly, selective NK2 receptor antagonists can reactivate inhibited motility or decrease inflammation- or stress-associated hypermotility. Intraluminal secretion of water is increased by NK2 receptor agonists via a direct effect on epithelial cells, and this mechanism is active in models of diarrhoea since selective antagonists reverse the increase in faecal water content in these models. Hyperalgesia in response to intraluminal volume signals is possibly mediated through the stimulation of NK2 receptors located on peripheral branches of primary afferent neurones. NK2 receptor antagonists reduce the hyper-responsiveness that occurs following intestinal inflammation or application of stressful stimuli to animals. Likewise, NK2 receptor antagonists reduce intestinal tissue damage induced by chemical irritation of the intestinal wall or lumen. In healthy volunteers, the selective NK2 antagonist nepadutant reduced the motility-stimulating effects and irritable bowel syndrome-like symptoms triggered by intravenous infusion of neurokinin A, and displayed other characteristics that could support its use in patients. It is concluded that blockade of peripheral tachykinin NK2 receptors should be considered as a viable mechanism for decreasing the painful symptoms and altered bowel habits of irritable bowel syndrome patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / drug effects
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology
  • Humans
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / metabolism
  • Peptides, Cyclic / pharmacology
  • Peptides, Cyclic / therapeutic use
  • Receptors, Neurokinin-2 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptors, Neurokinin-2 / metabolism


  • MEN 11420
  • Peptides, Cyclic
  • Receptors, Neurokinin-2