Tachykinins and their functions in the gastrointestinal tract

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2008 Jan;65(2):295-311. doi: 10.1007/s00018-007-7148-1.


In the gastrointestinal tract, tachykinins are peptide neurotransmitters in nerve circuits that regulate intestinal motility, secretion, and vascular functions. Tachykinins also contribute to transmission from spinal afferents that innervate the gastrointestinal tract and have roles in the responses of the intestine to inflammation. Tachykinins coexist with acetylcholine, the primary transmitter of excitatory neurons innervating the muscle, and act as a co-neurotransmitter of excitatory neurons. Excitatory transmission is mediated through NK1 receptors (primarily on interstitial cells of Cajal) and NK2 receptors on the muscle. Tachykinins participate in slow excitatory transmission at neuro-neuronal synapses, through NK1 and NK3 receptors, in both ascending and descending pathways affecting motility. Activation of receptors (NK1 and NK2) on the epithelium causes fluid secretion. Tachykinin receptors on immune cells are activated during inflammation of the gut. Finally, tachykinins are released from the central terminals of gastrointestinal afferent neurons in the spinal cord, particularly in nociceptive pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / pathology
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Smooth / cytology
  • Muscle, Smooth / innervation
  • Peptides / genetics
  • Receptors, Tachykinin / metabolism
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Tachykinins / genetics
  • Tachykinins / metabolism*


  • Peptides
  • Receptors, Tachykinin
  • Tachykinins