Feeding intolerance is a common issue in the care of preterm neonates. The condition manifests as delayed emptying of gastric contents and represents a therapeutic challenge, since the factors accounting for its manifestations are unknown. The main goal of this study was to comparatively investigate the age-related function of rat gastric and pyloric smooth muscle and their putative regulators. We hypothesized that a reduced gastric muscle contraction potential early in life contributes to the delayed gastric emptying of the newborn. Newborn and adult rat gastric (fundus) and pyloric sphincter tissues were comparatively studied in vitro. Shortening of the tissue-specific dissociated smooth muscle cell was evaluated, and expression of the key regulatory proteins Rho-associated kinase 2 and myosin light chain kinase was determined. Gastric and pyloric smooth muscle cell shortening was significantly greater in the adult than the respective newborn counterpart. Expression of myosin light chain kinase and Rho-associated kinase 2 was developmentally regulated and increased with age. Pyloric sphincter muscle expresses a higher neuronal nitric oxide synthase and phosphorylated vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein content in newborn than adult tissue. Compared with later in life, the newborn rat gastropyloric muscle has a Ca2+-related reduced potential for contraction and the pyloric sphincter relaxation-dependent modulators are overexpressed. To the extent that these rodent data can be extrapolated to humans, the delayed gastric emptying in the newborn reflects reduced stomach muscle contraction potential, as opposed to increased pyloric sphincter tone.
- smooth muscle
- feeding intolerance
- Copyright © 2016 the American Physiological Society
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