The upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract undergoes a temporally coordinated cyclic motor pattern known as the migrating motor complex (MMC) in both dogs and humans during the fasted state. Feeding results in replacement of the MMC by a pattern of noncyclic, intermittent contractile activity termed as postprandial contractions. Although the MMC is known to be stimulated by motilin, recent studies have shown that ghrelin, which is from the same peptide family as motilin, is also involved in the regulation of the MMC. In the present study, we investigated the role of the vagus nerve on gastric motility using conscious suncus-a motilin- and ghrelin-producing small animal. During the fasted state, cyclic MMC comprising phases I, II, and III was observed in both sham-operated and vagotomized suncus; however, the duration and motility index (MI) of phase II was significantly decreased in vagotomized animals. Motilin infusion (50 ng·kg-1·min-1 for 10 min) during phase I had induced phase III-like contractions in both sham-operated and vagotomized animals. Ghrelin infusion (0.1, 0.3, 1, 3, or 10 μg·kg-1·min-1 for 10 min) enhanced the amplitude of phase II MMC in sham-operated animals, but not in vagotomized animals. After feeding, phase I was replaced by postprandial contractions, and motilin infusion (50 ng·kg-1·min-1 for 10 min) did not induce phase III-like contractions in sham-operated suncus. However, in vagotomized suncus, feeding did not evoke postprandial contractions, but exogenous motilin injection strongly induced phase III-like contractions, as noted during the phase I period. Thus, the results indicate that ghrelin stimulates phase II of the MMC via the vagus nerve in suncus. Furthermore, the vagus nerve is essential for initiating postprandial contractions, and inhibition of the phase III-like contractions induced by motilin is highly dependent on the vagus nerve.
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