The role of vasoactive intestinal polypeptide in the control of gastric corpus tone and motility was investigated using auto-antibodies to neutralise endogenous vasoactive intestinal polypeptide. Six ferrets were immunised with vasoactive intestinal polypeptide thyroglobulin conjugate in Freund's complete adjuvant which resulted in a significant increase in plasma vasoactive intestinal polypeptide binding activity compared with unimmunised control animals. In acute experiments the level of spontaneous motility in the period immediately after completion of the surgical preparation was 15 times higher in immunised v control animals (p < 0.02). Surprisingly, however, there was no deficit in the ability of the corpus to accommodate fluid. Peak pressure at the end of a 20 ml ramp distension was not different in immunised animals (5.7 (0.6) cm H2O) compared with controls (4.8 (0.3) cm H2O). It is concluded that the non-adrenergic non-cholinergic inhibitory mechanisms regulating corpus tone and motility are different and that vasoactive intestinal polypeptide acts primarily to regulate phasic contractile activity. Alternatively, because of plasticity in the mechanisms controlling corpus tone, the effect of vasoactive intestinal polypeptide may have been superceded during the timecourse of the immunisation procedure.
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