The aim was to investigate the action of serotonin (5HT) on function of the ileocolonic junction (ICJ) in vivo. In anaesthetised rats, models were developed to study the effects of intra-aortic (ia) serotonin on ileocolonic and colonic transit, and the effects on transit of a number of 5HT receptor antagonists. In the first series of experiments, a bolus of saline labelled with 99mTc DTPA was instilled 20 cm proximal to the ICJ and transit was assessed three hours later by the geometric centre of the spread of isotope. In the second series, similar techniques were used on the postcaecal colon and transit assessed two hours later. In the third series of experiments, the effects of ia 5HT on ileal net fluid flux was evaluated by standard perfusion experiments with 14C polyethylene glycol (PEG) 4000 as a non-absorbable marker in rat plasma-like electrolyte solution. Compared with ia saline, 5HT accelerated ICJ transit significantly (p < 0.05). This acceleration was comparable with the effect of ia bethanechol. The effects of 5HT on ICJ transit were inhibited by the intraperitoneal (ip) infusion of atropine, the 5HT receptor antagonists, methysergide, ketanserin, zacopride, and the 5HT4 agonist, SC53116. Methysergide, zacopride, and SC53116 given with ia 5HT slowed ICJ transit to rates below those of ia saline alone. When these same agents were given together with ia saline, the ICJ transit was not significantly altered. Serotonin, at the dose that accelerated ICJ transit, did not significantly alter colonic transit or ileal fluid transport. In conclusion, 5HT is a potent pharmacological stimulant of transit across the rat ICJ in vivo; the action of 5HT is mediated partly through muscarinic neurones and several 5HT receptor subtypes.
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