Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci 2008; 12 (5): 69-80

Tachykinin receptors and gastrointestinal motility: focus on humans

A. Lecci, M. Altamura, A. Capriati, C.A. Maggi

Clinical Research Department, Menarini Ricerche, Florence (Italy)

Abstract. – Peptides of the tachykinin (TK) family were first discovered in the gastrointestinal tissue about 75 years ago and supposed to be involved in gastrointestinal (GI) motility. This hypothesis has been repeatedly proven, although the role of TKs on motility is modulatory rather than pivotal. Furthermore, beyond the well known excitatory role, it has been acknowledged that TKs can also inhibit GI motility. TKs act at 3 receptors termed as TK NK1 (NK1r), NK2 (NK2r), and NK3 (NK3r) receptors. The view gained through intense preclinical research suggested that motor effects induced by the stimulation of NK2r were prominently mediated by a direct action on smooth muscle, those produced by the stimulation of NK1r were due to both muscular and neuronal effects, whereas the motor effects induced by NK3r were exclusively mediated by neuronal effects. Recent functional and anatomical findings in humans are challenging this concept since NK2r have been found in several kinds of myenteric neurons and selective NK2r antagonists can, in particular conditions, produce GI motor effects likely related to a neuronal site of action. Furthermore, the evidence for a myotropic role of NK1r is scarce, and very few studies, if any, have documented a functional role for NK3r. The findings that an acute or a long lasting blockade of NK2r does not alter normal GI functions and that these receptors can modulate visceral sensitivity are good starting points for testing this class of drugs in GI diseases characterised by altered GI motility.

Corresponding Author: Alessandro Lecci, BS; e-mail:

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A. Lecci, M. Altamura, A. Capriati, C.A. Maggi
Tachykinin receptors and gastrointestinal motility: focus on humans

Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci
Year: 2008
Vol. 12 - N. 5
Pages: 69-80