Ghrelin stimulates motility in the small intestine of rats through intrinsic cholinergic neurons

Regul Pept. 2004 Sep 15;121(1-3):25-30. doi: 10.1016/j.regpep.2004.04.001.


Background and purpose: Ghrelin is a peptide discovered in endocrine cells of the stomach. Since ghrelin mRNA expression and plasma levels are elevated in the fasting state, we investigated the effects of ghrelin on the interdigestive migrating myoelectric complex (MMC) in the small intestine in vivo and compared with motor effects of ghrelin in vitro.

Methods: Sprague-Dawley rats were supplied with a venous catheter and bipolar electrodes in the duodenum and jejunum for electromyography of small intestine in awake rats. In organ baths, isometric contractions of segments of rat jejunum were studied.

Results: Ghrelin dose-dependently shortened the MMC cycle length at all three recording points. At the duodenal site, the interval shortened from 17.2+/-2.0 to 9.9+/-0.8 min during infusion of ghrelin (1000 pmol kg(-1) min(-1)) and at the jejunal site from 17.5+/-2.2 to 10.5+/-0.8 min. Ghrelin contracted the muscle strips with a pD2 of 7.97+/-0.47. Atropine (10(-6) M) in vitro and (1 mg kg(-1)) in vivo blocked the effect of ghrelin.

Conclusion: Ghrelin stimulates interdigestive motility through cholinergic neurons. Ghrelin also stimulates motility, in vitro, suggesting that ghrelin receptors are present in the intestinal neuromuscular tissue and mediate its effects via cholinergic mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atropine / pharmacology
  • Cholinergic Fibers / drug effects*
  • Cholinergic Fibers / physiology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / drug effects*
  • Ghrelin
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Intestine, Small / drug effects*
  • Intestine, Small / physiology*
  • Isometric Contraction / drug effects
  • Male
  • Myoelectric Complex, Migrating / drug effects
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Peptide Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Peptide Hormones / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, Ghrelin


  • Ghrelin
  • Peptide Hormones
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Receptors, Ghrelin
  • Atropine