Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) is a putative neurotransmitter in both the brain and peripheral tissues. To define possible target tissues of VIP we have used quantitative receptor autoradiography to localize and quantify the distribution of [125I]VIP receptor binding sites in histologically normal human surgical specimens. While the distribution of VIP binding sites was different for each gastrointestinal segment examined, specific vasoactive intestinal polypeptide binding sites were localized to the mucosa, the muscularis mucosa, the smooth muscle of submucosal arterioles, the circular and longitudinal smooth muscle of the muscularis externa, the myenteric plexus, and lymph nodules. In most segments, the mucosal layer expressed the highest concentration of VIP binding sites, with the duodenal and jejunal mucosa showing the highest density of receptors. These results identify putative VIP target tissues in the human gastrointestinal tract. In correlation with physiological data, VIP binding sites appear to be involved in the regulation of a variety of gastrointestinal functions including mucosal ion transport, gastric secretion, hemodynamic regulation, gastric and intestinal motility, neuronal excitability, and modulation of the immune system.
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