Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Short- and long-term effects of cocaine on enteric neuronal functions

Cocaine is one of the most consumed illegal drugs among (young) adults in the European Union and it exerts various acute and chronic negative effects on psychical and physical health. The central mechanism through which cocaine initially leads to improved performance, followed by addictive behavior, has already been intensively studied and includes effects on the homeostasis of the neurotransmitters dopamine, partly mediated via nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, and serotonin. However, effects on the peripheral nervous system, including the enteric nervous system, are much less understood, though a correlation between cocaine consumption and gastrointestinal symptoms has been reported. The aim of the present study was to gain more information on the effects of cocaine on enteric neuronal functions and the underlying mechanisms. For this purpose, functional experiments using an organ bath, Ussing chamber and neuroimaging techniques were conducted on gastrointestinal tissues from guinea pigs. Key results obtained are that cocaine (1) exhibits a stimulating, non-neuronal effect on gastric antrum motility, (2) acutely (but not chronically) diminishes responses of primary cultured enteric neurons to nicotinic and serotonergic stimulation and (3) reversibly attenuates neuronal-mediated intestinal mucosal secretion. It can be concluded that cocaine, among its central effects, also alters enteric neuronal functions, providing potential explanations for the coexistence of cocaine abuse and gastrointestinal complaints.

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