New transmitters and new targets in the autonomic nervous system
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Several recent findings have made research into the autonomic nervous system even more exciting, such as the revelation that nitric oxide is a major neurotransmitter, the delineation of the physiological roles for purines and vasoactive intestinal peptide, and the discovery that the interstitial cells of Cajal are major target cells for enteric innervation. Nitric oxide is probably the major neurotransmitter evoking inhibitory junction potentials in smooth muscle. ATP is a mediator of non-adrenergic non-cholinergic enteric innervation, as well as being a fast neurotransmitter in peripheral and autonomic neuro-neuronal synapses. The interactions between enteric nerves and both immune cells and interstitial cells of Cajal (as pacemaker cells of gut smooth muscle) are forcing a rethink of many aspects of gut physiology.
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