Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), produced in the gut by bacterial fermentation of carbohydrates, change intestinal motility by mechanisms as yet unknown. This study examined the mechanism(s) of action of SCFAs on contractility using isolated rat terminal ileum segments and isolated ileal smooth muscle cells. Strip contractions were recorded under isometric conditions. Intracellular calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i) was measured in single cells loaded with indo-1 penta-acetoxymethyl ester (indo-1 AM). SCFAs (10(-9) to 10(-2) mol/l) induced concentration dependent contractions. The effect was not different among the individual SCFAs. Exogenous acids (namely tartaric and citric acids) caused similar responses as SCFAs, whereas sodium acetate had no effect. The contraction was not blocked by tetrodotoxin, atropine or hexamethonium, showing that it was not mediated through a cholinergic pathway. Moreover, removal of the mucosa or addition of procaine (a local anaesthetic) to the bath did not change the SCFA induced contraction, while verapamil (a calcium-channel antagonist) completely suppressed it. In addition, application of SCFAs to isolated ileal myocytes evoked peaks in [Ca2+]i inhibited by D 600 (a blocker of voltage dependent calcium channels). Taken together, these results suggest that the contractile response stimulated by SCFAs in the rat terminal ileum could result from an acid sensitive calcium dependent myogenic mechanism.
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