Rikkunshito Depolarizes Pacemaker Potentials of Cultured Interstitial Cells of Cajal through Ghrelin Receptors in Murine Small Intestine

Digestion. 2020;101(3):227-238. doi: 10.1159/000498986. Epub 2019 Mar 19.


Background: Rikkunshito has been used to treat gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of Rikkunshito, a traditional Japanese herbal medicine, on the pacemaker potentials of interstitial cells of Cajal (ICCs) from the small intestines of mice.

Methods: We isolated ICCs from the small intestines of mice, and the whole-cell patch-clamp configuration was used to record the pacemaker potentials in cultured ICCs and membrane currents.

Results: Rikkunshito depolarized ICC pacemaker potentials in a dose-dependent manner. Pretreatment with GSK1614343 or (D-Lys3)-growth hormone-releasing peptide-6 inhibited Rikkunshito-induced depolarization of pacemaker potentials. Intracellular GDP-β-S inhibited Rikkunshito-induced effects. In Ca2+-free solution or in the presence of thapsigargin, Rikkunshito did not depolarize pacemaker potentials. Moreover, in the presence of U-73122 or xestospongin C, Rikkunshito-induced effects were inhibited. However, in the presence of staurosporine, Go6976 or Rottlerin, Rikkunshito depolarized pacemaker potentials. Furthermore, Rikkunshito inhibited both transient receptor potentials melastatin 7 (TRPM7) and Ca2+-activated Cl- channels (ANO1) currents.

Conclusion: Rikkunshito depolarized pacemaker potentials of ICCs via ghrelin receptor and G protein through internal or external Ca2+-, phospholipase C-, and inositol triphosphate-dependent and protein kinase C-, TRPM7-, and ANO1-independent pathways. The study shows that Rikkunshito may alleviate GI motility disorders through its depolarizing effects on ICCs.

Keywords: Gastrointestinal tract; Interstitial cells of Cajal; Motility; Pacemaker potentials; Rikkunshito.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / pharmacology*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology
  • Interstitial Cells of Cajal / drug effects*
  • Interstitial Cells of Cajal / physiology
  • Intestine, Small / cytology
  • Intestine, Small / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects*
  • Mice
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Receptors, Ghrelin / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • Receptors, Ghrelin
  • liu-jun-zi-tang