ColonicN-methyl-d-aspartate receptor contributes to visceral hypersensitivity in irritable bowel syndrome

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Background and Aims:

N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) in brain, spinal cord, and enteric nervous system is involved in visceral hypersensitivity. This study aimed to reveal the functional expression of NMDAR on mucosal cells in colon and to investigate the downstream signal pathway from colonic NMDAR activation to visceral hypersensitivity in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).


The expression of mucosal NMDAR in IBS patients and healthy controls was assessed by immunohistochemistry and Western blot and correlated with abdominal pain/discomfort scores quantified by a validated questionnaire. Electromyography recording in response to colorectal distension was recorded to measure the colonic sensitivity of mice receiving NMDA administration intracolonically. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway activation were examined in human colonic epithelial HT29 cells after NMDA stimulation, with or without MK801 or U0126 pretreatment.


A significant upregulation of mucosal NMDAR was observed in IBS patients compared with controls, which was significantly correlated with abdominal pain/discomfort scores. Intracolonic administration of NMDA in normal mice produced increased colonic sensitivity to colorectal distension and elevated expression of BDNF and activation of ERK. Activation of NMDAR in colonic epithelial HT29 cells in vitro induced increased BDNF secretion in cell supernatants and higher BDNF expression in cells, as well as elevated phosphorylated ERK.


This study demonstrated that the activation of mucosal NMDAR in colon may contribute to the visceral hypersensitivity in IBS, by increasing production of BDNF in an ERK-dependent pathway.

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