Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are the major anions in the large intestine. They are produced by a bacterial fermentation of dietary fiber. SCFAs are known to have a variety of physiological and pathphysiological effects on intestine. However, the mechanisms by which intraluminal SCFAs are sensed are not known. In 2003, two orphan G protein coupled receptors (GPRs), GPR41 and GPR43, have been cloned and demonstrated to be receptors for SCFAs. Thus, we had attempted to make antibodies raised against GPR43 and GPR41 to elucidate the roles of SCFAs on colonic functions. We have also evaluated the effects of SCFAs on colonic motility to define the physiological roles on luminal SCFAs. In rat and human colon, GPR43 protein was detected by Western blot analysis in extracts of whole wall and separated mucosa, but not in muscle plus submucosa extract. By immunohistochemistry, GPR43 immunoreactivity was localized with enteroendocrine cells expressing peptide YY, whereas 5-HT immunoreactive enteroendocrine cells were not immunoreactive for GPR43. GPR41 immunoreactivity was also found in human colon. In functional studies, propionate and butyrate concentration-dependently (10 microM - 10 mM) induced phasic and tonic contractions in rat colonic circular muscle. The propionate-induced phasic contraction was attenuated by atropine, tetrodotoxin and the 5-HT(4) receptor antagonists SB204070. However, acetate did not induce phasic or tonic contractions. Propionate-induced responses were not observed in mucosal free preparations. The present results suggest that the SCFA-induced physiological effects on colonic functions might be attributable to the activation of SCFA receptors on epithelial cells in the colon.