Although a number of pharmacological studies have shown the involvement of tachykinin type 2 receptors (NK2r) in the regulation of human colonic motility, few data are available so far on their pattern of expression. In this study this pattern was investigated in the myenteric plexuses, the longitudinal and circular muscle layers (external muscular layers), and the interstitial cells of Cajal (ICCs) using confocal microscopy immunofluorescence methods. NK2r immunoreactivity (NK2r-IR) was detected in the soma of myenteric neurons and in nerve varicosities located in myenteric plexuses as well as in external muscular layers. Colocalization analysis of NK2r-IR and synaptophysin-IR, showed significant regional differences in the distribution of NK2r-expressing nerve varicosities, the rate of occurrence was found to be 56.08% +/- 3% (mean +/- SE) in the external muscular layers and 30.22% +/- 1% (mean +/- SE) in the myenteric plexuses. NK2r-IR was found in membranes of most muscle cells previously incubated with a selective NK2r agonist, [beta-Ala(8)] neurokinin A fragment 4-10, at 4 degrees C, and then mainly relocated in the cytoplasm when heated to 37 degrees C. A number of NK2r-IR nerve varicosities were close to NK2r-expressing neurons and muscle cells. Some of NK2r-expressing neurons and nerves were tachykinin-IR. No NK2r-IR was detected in ICCs. The present data indicate that presynaptic and postsynaptic neuroneuronal and neuromuscular regulatory processes mediated by tachykinins via NK2r may occur for modulating human colonic motility.