Qualitative and quantitative analysis of tachykinin NK2 receptors in chemically defined human colonic neuronal pathways

J Comp Neurol. 2008 Apr 1;507(4):1542-58. doi: 10.1002/cne.21628.


The involvement of NK2 receptors (NK2r) in the neuroregulation of human colonic motility has been mainly assessed by using pharmacological approaches. The aim of this study was to characterize the intramural neurons and nerve varicosities expressing NK2r in human colonic neuronal pathways. Neuronal coding in the myenteric plexus and external muscle layers was identified on the basis of the patterns of colocalization of tachykinins (TK), vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT), nitric oxide synthase (NOS), glutamate decarboxylase (GAD), and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) with NK2r immunoreactivity. The proportions of chemically defined synaptophysin-immunoreactive nerve varicosities were accurately determined by using specific software. NK2r immunoreactivity was detected in the soma of many myenteric neurons (71.8%). A large proportion of these neurons was immunoreactive to VAChT (39.3%), TK (30%), and GAD (23.5%) and, to a lesser extent, to NOS and VIP. The proportions of nerve varicosities expressing NK2r showed significant regional differences: the highest proportion (59.8%) was located in the myenteric plexus. High proportions of the myenteric nerve varicosities expressing NK2r were immunoreactive to VIP (80.9%) and NOS (77.9%), and lower proportions were recorded with VAChT, TK, and GAD. In the circular and longitudinal muscle layers, the proportions of nerve varicosities expressing NK2r were 49.6% and 45.3%, respectively. The chemically defined intramuscular varicosities were closely apposed to smooth muscle cells expressing NK2r. In conclusion, the data obtained in this study, in which the expression of NK2r was mapped in the human colonic neuronal pathways, confirm that these receptors are involved in the neuroneuronal and neuromuscular processes regulating human colonic motility.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blotting, Western
  • Colon / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Middle Aged
  • Myenteric Plexus / metabolism
  • Neural Pathways / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Receptors, Tachykinin / biosynthesis*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Tachykinin