Localisation of NK1 receptor immunoreactivity to neurons and interstitial cells of the guinea-pig gastrointestinal tract

J Comp Neurol. 1996 Apr 8;367(3):342-51. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9861(19960408)367:3<342::AID-CNE2>3.0.CO;2-5.


Tachykinins, including substance P, neurokinin A, and neuropeptides K and gama, are expressed widely in the peripheral nervous system where they affect smooth muscle contraction, exocrine gland secretion, vascular permeability, and neurotransmission. Substance P, the preferred ligand for the NK1 receptor, is found in high concentrations in the enteric nervous system. In the present study, the localisation and distribution of the NK1 receptor was studied throughout the gastrointestinal tract of the guinea-pig by using a polyclonal antiserum raised against the C-terminal 15 amino acids of the NK1 receptor. Co-localisation with other neuronal markers was examined in the ileum. Nerve cell bodies reactive for the NK1 receptor were found in the myenteric plexus of all regions and the submucous plexus of the small and large intestines. In the small intestine, the interstitial cells of Cajal were also immunoreactive. Immunoreactivity was largely confined to cell surfaces. Almost all immunoreactive myenteric nerve cells had Dogiel type I morphology, and most of these were immunoreactive for nitric oxide synthase, a transmitter of inhibitory neurons to the muscle and of descending interneurons. Neuropeptide Y-containing secretomotor neurons in the submucous and myenteric plexuses also exhibited NK1 receptor immunoreactivity. NK1 receptors were present on a minority of tachykinin immunoreactive neurons of submucous ganglia. The results suggest that receptors on the longitudinal muscle might not be conventional NK1 receptors, that excitation of the circular muscle of the ileum is indirect, perhaps via the interstitial cells of Cajal, and that enteric inhibitory neurons may be excited via NK1 receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Digestive System / cytology
  • Digestive System / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs / anatomy & histology
  • Guinea Pigs / metabolism*
  • Ileum / cytology
  • Ileum / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Neurokinin-1 / analysis*


  • Receptors, Neurokinin-1