Vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) is a candidate as an inhibitory neurotransmitter mediating relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) because VIP antiserum reduces LES relaxation in response to neural stimulation. Vasoactive intestinal peptide antiserum, however, does not completely block LES relaxation. Thus it is possible that other neurotransmitters may be involved. Peptide histidine isoleucine has structural homologies with VIP, is synthesized with VIP from a common precursor protein, coexists in some nerve cells, and is coproduced with VIP in some tumors. In numerous organ systems VIP and peptide histidine isoleucine (PHI) produce similar effects, with PHI being less potent than VIP by approximately one log number. In the LES both VIP and PHI produce tetrodotoxinresistant dose-dependent relaxation, with PHI being almost equipotent with VIP. We therefore tested the hypothesis that PHI may be a second neurotransmitter, partly responsible for relaxation of the cat LES, by using a highly specific rabbit PHI antiserum that exhibits minimal cross-binding with VIP, secretin, and glucagon. In 3 animals, LES and brain tissue were extracted in 0.1 N HCl and assayed with a PHI radioimmunoassay. The antiserum cross-reacted with cat brain and LES showing PHI concentrations >100 ng/g, with the LES containing equal or greater concentrations of PHI than brain tissue. In other animals consecutive LES circular muscle strips were cut, mounted in 1-ml muscle chambers, and stimulated with 6-s square-wave trains of 0.1-, 0.2-, 0.4-, and 0.8-ms pulses at 1, 2, and 5 Hz. These parameters produced relaxation that was completely blocked by tetrodotoxin, and reduced by VIP antiserum, but not affected by adrenergic or cholinergic receptor antagonists. Some strips were incubated in 5% or 10% PHI antiserum, whereas others were incubated in the same concentration of preimmunization serum from the same animal. Incubation in normal serum did not significantly affect relaxation, whereas in the antiserum-treated strips, LES relaxation was reduced by a significant amount (20%-30%) at all parameters of stimulation tested. Incubation in antiserum however had no effect on relaxation induced by VIP (10-8-10-8M). These data suggest that PHI may play a role in LES relaxation induced by electrical stimulation.
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