Control of intestinal secretions

Secretion in the small intestine can be controlled by hormones, paracrine factors and nervous activity. Hormones and paracrine factors such as gastrin, serotonin and prostaglandins stimulate the epithelial cells directly. The cells are innervated by secretomotor neurones, mainly the ganglia in the submucosal plexus, but also via ganglia in the myenteric plexus. The submucosal neurones release acetylcholine, vasoactive inhibitory peptide and serotonin, to stimulate secretion.

Parasympathetic nerves innervate nerves in the enteric nerve plexi. They enhance secretion by releasing acetylcholine onto the neurones in the plexi. Parasympathetic tone contributes to the basal secretion in the small intestine.

Reflexes triggered by distension of the small intestinal lumen, and the presence of various substances (i.e. glucose, bile salts, acid, alcohol) in the intestinal chyme, stimulate secretion.

There are two ways that noradrenalin has an inhibitory effect upon intestinal secretion. First, it acts directly upon the epithelial cells, and second it acts upon the neurones in the submucosal ganglia to inhibit secretory nerves that stimulate the epithelial cells.

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