Physiol. Res. 52: 1-30, 2003


Neurohumoral Control of Gastrointestinal Motility


Department of Surgical Gastroenterology D, Glostrup University Hospital of Copenhagen, Denmark

Received December 6, 2001
Accepted April 25, 2002

Neurohumoral substances and their receptors play a major part in the complex regulation of gastrointestinal motility and have therefore been the predominant targets for drug development. The numerous receptors involved in motility are located mainly on smooth muscle cells and neuronal structures in the extrinsic and intrinsic parts of the enteric nervous system. Within this system, receptor agonists and antagonists interacts directly to modify excitatory or inhibitory signals. In view of this complexity it is not surprising that our knowledge about the mechanisms of actions of the various neurohormones and drugs affecting gut motility has been rather fragmented and incomplete. However, recently substantial progress has been achieved, and drug therapy for gut dysmotility is emerging, based primarily on neurohumoral receptors. This paper presents a selective review of the neurohumoral regulatory mechanisms of gastrointestinal motility. In this context, the physiology and pharmacology of the smooth muscle cells, gastrointestinal motility and dysmotility, the enteric nervous system, gastrointestinal reflexes, and serotonin is presented. Further investigation and understanding of the transmitters and receptors involved in especially the reflex activation of peristalsis is crucial for the development of novel therapies for motility disorders.

Key words
5-Hydroxytryptamine • Enteric Nervous System • Gastrointestinal • Hormones • Interstitial Cells of Cajal • Motility • Review • Serotonin

Reprint requests
Mark Berner Hansen, Chief Surgeon, DMSc, Department of Surgical Gastroenterology K, Bispebjerg University Hospital of Copenhagen, Bispebjerg Bakke 23, 2400 Copenhagen NV, Denmark , e-mail:

© 2003 by the Institute of Physiology, Czech Academy of Sciences