The effect of efferent electrical stimulation of the divided thoracic vagus nerves on the release of substance P-like immunoreactivity (SPLI) into the portal vein was studied in anesthetized cats. Under basal conditions portal SPLI levels were fairly constant. During the first 5 min of vagal stimulation there was a significant increase of the portal plasma levels of SPLI. Since we have demonstrated that infracardiac vagal stimulation causes only minor changes in small intestinal bloodflow, a true vagal neurogenic release of SPLI seems likely. We have shown that SPLI is exclusively localized within feline gut neurons (not the enterochromaffin (EC) cells). Thus, SPLI released into the portal circulation probably represents overflow of transmitter into the circulation. Neither blockade of cholino- or adrenoceptors nor ganglionic blockade influenced the enhanced release of SPLI induced by vagal stimulation, suggesting activation of SP neurons via nonclassical receptors.
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