The neuropharmacology of emesis: the role of receptors in neuromodulation of nausea and vomiting
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The basic pharmacological mechanisms involved in mediating nausea and vomiting are still poorly understood. Several classes of drugs have been identified that alleviate the symptoms of nausea and vomiting, either prophylactically or acutely. None of these is completely effective in all cases. They include antihistamines, dopamine antagonists, steroids, cannabinoids, benzodiazepines, serotonin antagonists, and anticholinergics. This paper examines the evidence that links each of these classes of drugs with the distribution of specific neurotransmitter receptor sites on which they may be acting. Studies on the central nervous system distribution of binding sites for one of these classes of drugs, the anticholinergics, are described. Binding sites for the muscarinic cholinergic radioligand [3H]quinuclidinylbenzilate occur in different concentrations throughout the dorsal vagal complex of the rabbit medulla oblongata. The distribution of such sites in this nonvomiting experimental animal is markedly different from that in the cat, an animal that has been used for many physiological and pharmacological studies of emesis. A previous study has suggested that muscarinic binding sites may occur presynaptically on vagal afferent terminals that synapse in the dorsal vagal complex of the cat; this appears not to be the case in the rabbit. Possible implications of these findings for the identification of the site of action of anticholinergic, antiemetic drugs are discussed.
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