Background: Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) is present in adult gut although its role in the mature enteric nervous system is not well defined. The aim of the present study was to examine the role of GDNF as neuromodulator of the ascending phase of the peristaltic reflex.
Methods: Colonic segments were prepared as flat sheets and placed in compartmented chambers so as to separate the sensory and motor limbs of the reflex. Ascending contraction was measured in the orad compartment and mucosal stroking stimuli (two to eight strokes) were applied in the caudad compartment. GDNF and substance P (SP) release were measured and the effects of GDNF and GDNF antibody on contraction and release were determined. Mice with reduced levels of GDNF (Gdnf(+/-)) and wild type littermates were also examined.
Key results: GDNF was released in a stimulus-dependent manner into the orad motor but not caudad sensory compartment. Addition of GDNF to the orad motor but not caudad sensory compartment augmented ascending contraction and SP release. Conversely, addition of GDNF antibody to the orad motor but not caudad sensory compartment reduced ascending contraction and SP release. Similarly, the ascending contraction and SP release into the orad motor compartment was reduced in Gdnf(+/-) mice as compared to wild type littermates.
Conclusions & inferences: The results suggest that endogenous GDNF is released during the ascending contraction component of the peristaltic reflex where it acts as a neuromodulator to augment SP release from motor neurons thereby augmenting contraction of circular muscle orad to the site of stimulation.