The organization of serotonin-, dopamine-, and FMRFamide- containing neuronal elements and their possible role in the regulation of spontaneous contraction of the gastrointestinal tract in the snail Helix pomatia

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The distribution of serotonin-, tyrosine hydroxylase-, and FMRFamide-immunoreactive neuronal elements, as well as the concentrations of serotonin and dopamine in the different parts of the gastrointestinal tract, were studied in the snail Helix pomatia. The sensitivity of the spontaneous contractions of the alimentary tract to serotonin, dopamine, and FMRFamide was also tested. Serotonin-, tyrosine hydroxylase-, and FMRFamide-immunoreactive elements could be demonstrated in each part of the gastrointestinal tract, but they showed different innervation patterns. Serotonin- and tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive elements were dominant in the submucosal layer, whereas FMRFamide-immunoreactive elements were dominant in both the mucosal and submucosal layers. Tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive elements were confined to the longitudinal muscle trabeculae of submucosa, whereas serotonin-immunoreactive elements were distributed throughout the submucosal layer. No serotonin-immunoreactive cell bodies, but only fibers, could be detected in the gastrointestinal tract, and therefore they represent extrinsic elements. Tyrosine hydroxylase- and FMRFamide-immunoreactive cell bodies represent intrinsic elements of the tract. The occurrence and density of the serotonin- and tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive elements showed significant differences in the different parts of the alimentary tract, in accordance with HPLC assays, which revealed a significant frontocaudal decrease in both the serotonin (from 2.11 to 1.21 pM/mg) and dopamine (from 3.28 to 0.52 pM/mg) contents of the different parts of the alimentary tract. Dopamine at 10-5 M concentration proved to be effective only on the longitudinal muscles by increasing the tone and frequency of contractions, but was ineffective on the circular muscles. Serotonin affected both the longitudinal and circular muscles. Serotonin at 10-5 M concentration decreased the tone and increased the frequency of low-amplitude contractions of the longitudinal muscles of the esophagus and the gizzard but increased both the tone and frequency of the crop. Serotonin at 10-9 M concentration slightly decreased the tone and blocked the contractions of the circular muscles in the crop but at 10-5 M concentration induced contractions of the circular muscles in the gizzard. FMRFamide at 10-6 M concentration decreased the tone and was shown to block the contractions of both the longitudinal and circular muscles.

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