Altered gastrointestinal (GI) function contributes to the debilitating symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Nerve circuits contained within the gut wall and outside of the gut play important roles in modulating motility, mucosal fluid transport, and blood flow. The structure and function of these neuronal populations change during IBD. Superimposed on this plasticity is a diminished responsiveness of effector cells — smooth muscle cells, enterocytes, and vascular endothelial cells — to neurotransmitters. The net result is a breakdown in the precisely orchestrated coordination of motility, fluid secretion, and GI blood flow required for health. In this review, we consider how inflammation-induced changes to the effector innervation of these tissues, and changes to the tissues themselves, contribute to defective GI function in models of IBD. We also explore the evidence that reversing neuronal plasticity is sufficient to normalize function during IBD.
- Copyright © 2017 the American Physiological Society
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