Immunohistochemical studies using an antiserum to a pure porcine vasoactive intestinal peptide, possessing no cross reactivity against the related hormones glucagon, secretin, and gastrin-inhibitory peptide, revealed a wide distribution of vasoactive intestinal peptide cells throughout the entire length of the mammalian and avian gut. The highest numbers of cells were present in the small intestine and more particularly in the large intestine in all species investigated.
Three types of endocrine cell in the mammalian gut are sufficiently widely distributed to be considered as the sites for production of vasoactive intestinal peptide. In the avian gut there are only two identifiable cell types.
Sequential immunofluorescence and silver staining showed, in the bird, that the enterochromaffin (EC) cell was not responsible. This procedure could not be used in our mammalian gut samples but here serial section immunofluorescence for enteroglucagon and vasoactive intestinal peptide indicated that the two cells were not identical and that each was differently localized in the mucosa.
These results leave the D cell of the Wiesbaden classification as the most likely site for the production of vasoactive intestinal peptide. The final identification must come from successful immune electron cytochemistry but this has not yet been achieved.
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