The distribution of regulatory peptides was studied in the separated mucosa, submucosa and muscularis externa taken at 10 sampling sites encompassing the whole human sigmoid colon (five sites), rectum (two sites), and anal canal (three sites). Consistently high concentrations of VIP were measured in the muscle layer at most sites (proximal sigmoid: 286 (16) pmol/g, upper rectum: 269 (17), a moderate decrease being found in the distal smooth sphincter (151 (30) pmol/g). Values are expressed as mean (SE). Conversely, substance P concentrations showed an obvious decline in the recto-anal muscle (mid sigmoid: 19 (2.0) pmol/g, distal rectum: 7.1 (1.3), upper anal canal: 1.6 (0.6)). Somatostatin was mainly present in the sigmoid mucosa and submucosa (37 (9.3) and 15 (3.5) pmol/g, respectively) and showed slow, but consistent concentrations in the muscle (mid sigmoid: 2.2 (0.7) pmol/g, upper anal canal: 1.5 (0.8)). Starting in the distal sigmoid colon, a distinct peak of tissue NPY was revealed, which was most striking in the muscle (of mid sigmoid: 16 (3.9) pmol/g, upper rectum: 47 (7.8), anal sphincter: 58 (14)). Peptide YY was confined to the mucosa and showed an earlier peak (upper sigmoid: 709 (186) pmol/g, mid-distal sigmoid: 1965 (484)). A clear differential distribution of regulatory peptides was thus shown in the region studied. A possible role is suggested for NPY and VIP containing nerves in the effector control of the human internal anal sphincter.
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