Motilin--an update

Life Sci. 1984 Aug 13;35(7):695-706. doi: 10.1016/0024-3205(84)90337-0.


Motilin isolated in 1971 from the porcine gastrointestinal tract and localized there to endocrine cells, now appears to have a CNS neural origin by RIA and immunohistochemistry. In most species motilin releases neurotransmitters in the CNS to both increase and decrease neural transmission and in the gastrointestinal tract to increase motor activity. In the fasting animal, motilin initiates premature activity fronts of the migrating motor complex (MMC) in the upper gastrointestinal tract by an atropine or tetrodotoxin-sensitive mechanism. Immunoreactive motilin-release from the gut can be correlated with the passage of these fronts through the upper gut. In the dog, the associated events of this MMC, i.e. motor activity of the duodenum extrinsic and intrinsic neural activity and emptying of biliary and pancreatic secretions into the duodenum, all appear to contribute to the peaks in peripheral plasma immunoreactive motilin concentrations. In man, there appears to be a close association of motilin secretion with biliary and pancreatic secretions being emptied into the duodenum and less evidence for motor activity releasing motilin. Only in the dog is there strong evidence for an absolute requirement of motilin for the consolidation of the motor activity of the upper gut into the MMC. In man, the evidence is less convincing although motilin may facilitate the process and in the pig, motilin appears to have little or no role in MMC generation. No pathological consequences of hypermotilemia have been described although elevated motilin levels have been found to be associated with some diarrheal states, renal failure, and in the first week following abdominal surgery. Motilin thus remains a hormone seeking a physiological function in some species and a pathological role in all species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects
  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Digestive System Physiological Phenomena
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Gastrointestinal Hormones / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Intestine, Small / physiology
  • Motilin / metabolism
  • Motilin / pharmacology
  • Motilin / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology


  • Gastrointestinal Hormones
  • Motilin