Gastrointestinal hormones: from basic science to a clinical perspective

Aust N Z J Surg. 1990 Aug;60(8):575-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1445-2197.1990.tb07434.x.


The gastrointestinal tract is the largest endocrine organ in the body. However, gastrointestinal hormones are not confined to the gut and many of them are delivered to their target tissue by neural and paracrine routes as well as the circulation. Regulatory peptide is therefore a more appropriate term than gastrointestinal hormone. The functions of these regulatory peptides include effects on intake, digestion and absorption of food, and changes in gut secretions, motility and growth. Since these peptides do not act alone but in concert it has been difficult to ascribe particular functions to individual peptides. However, the recent and on-going development of specific regulatory peptide agonists and antagonists has resulted in major advances in our understanding of the physiology of these peptides. In turn these findings are creating new therapeutic avenues providing some return from all the research on these gastrointestinal regulatory peptides. The somatostatin derivative (octreotide or sandostatin) is the most obvious example. Although only approved in Australia for treatment of carcinoids and VIPomas, the prospects include treatment of other gastroenteropancreatic tumours, acromegaly, idiopathic diarrhoea, fistula closure, dumping, and ERCP or post-operative pancreatitis. A new gastrokinetic agent, that acts via the motilin receptor, is undergoing trials for the treatment of impaired gastric emptying. The trophic effect of gastrointestinal peptides has clinical significance. For instance, gastrin antagonists inhibit cell proliferation of colon carcinoma cell lines. Furthermore the trophic effect of gastrin must be considered when potent gastric acid inhibitors, which cause a reflex increase in gastrin, are used. The outlook is for more mammalian regulatory peptides to be discovered adding further to the complexity.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gastrointestinal Hormones / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Humans


  • Gastrointestinal Hormones