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In the present studies we investigated the mechanism of action of prostaglandin E2 (1 mg/kg, i.p.) to induce emesis and defecation and/or tenesmus in the ferret. The emesis was antagonized significantly (P < 0.05) by ondansetron (0.3 and 1 mg/kg, i.p.) and (+)-(2S,3S)-3-(2-methoxybenzylamino)-2-phenlypiperidine hydrochloride (CP-99,994; 10 mg/kg, i.p.), but neither compound reduced defecations and/or tenesmus, with ondansetron (0.3 mg/kg) actually producing a slight increase (P < 0.05). Droperidol (1 and 3 mg/kg), metoclopramide (0.3 and 3 mg/kg), domperidone (0.3 and 3 mg/kg), promethazine (0.3 and 3 mg/kg) and scopolamine (0.3 and 3 mg/kg) failed to reduce prostaglandin E2 induced emesis. However, droperidol (1 and 3 mg/kg) and scopolamine (0.3 and 3 mg/kg) reduced significantly the defecatory and/or tenesmus response (P < 0.05). Bilateral abdominal vagotomy was ineffective to reduce emesis and defecations and/or tenesmus. The data suggests that 5-HT3 receptor and NK1 tachykinin receptor antagonists could be useful in the clinic to prevent emesis but not defecations induced by prostaglandin E2.