1. Cholera toxin stimulates intestinal secretion in vitro by activation of mucosal adenylate cyclase. However, it has been proposed that cholera toxin promotes secretion in vivo mainly through an indirect mechanism involving enteric neural reflexes.

2. We examined this hypothesis further by studying the influence of neuronal blockade on cholera toxin-induced changes in fluid transport across rabbit ileum in vitro. Mucosa, stripped of muscle layers, was mounted in flux chambers and luminal application of crude cholera toxin (2 μg/ml) caused a delayed but sustained rise in the short-circuit current, electrical potential difference and Cl secretion. Pretreatment with the nerve-blocking drug, tetrodotoxin (5 × 10−6 mol/l serosal side), failed to influence the secretory response to cholera toxin, and addition of tetrodotoxin at the peak response to cholera toxin also had no effect.

3. That tetrodotoxin could block neurally mediated secretagogues was confirmed by the demonstration that the electrical responses to neurotensin (10−7 mol/l and 10−8 mol/l) were blocked by tetrodotoxin (5 × 10−6 mol/l). Furthermore, the response to cholera toxin of segments of ileum, which included the myenteric, submucosal and mucosal nerve plexuses, was not inhibited by tetrodotoxin.

4. We conclude that cholera toxin-induced secretion in rabbit ileum in vitro is not mediated via a neurological mechanism.

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