The immunomodulation of enteric neuromuscular function: Implications for motility and inflammatory disorders
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Gastrointestinal motility and sensory perception are altered in a variety of mucosal inflammatory conditions of the gut, ranging from peptic esophagitis to ulcerative colitis. Studies in animal models now clearly indicate a causal relationship between the presence of mucosal inflammation and altered sensory-motor function. In many instances, these changes occur in the absence of any discernible encroachment of the deeper neuromuscular layers by the inflammatory infiltrate, which remains largely within the lamina propria. Accordingly, attention has focused on local sources of mediators, and recent studies indicate that smooth muscle cells and enteroglia are sources of and targets for cytokines such as interleukin 1 beta and interleukin 6. In several instances, neuromuscular dysfunction persists after mucosal inflammation has subsided; this state may be maintained by locally produced mediators. Studies also show the ability of enteric muscle to modulate lymphocyte function via major histocompatibility complex II-restricted antigen presentation. Clinical observation and experimental data also suggest that nerves modulate intestinal inflammation via local release of proinflammatory neuropeptides (substance P) and via the activation of extensive circuits that may involve the brain. Taken together, these findings provide plausible explanations for a variety of clinical scenarios ranging from inflammatory bowel disease to pseudo-obstruction syndromes and subgroups of functional bowel disorders.
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