1. The influence of circulating 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin) on small intestinal motility was investigated in healthy volunteers.

2. Small intestinal motility was studied by means of a constantly perfused multi-channel manometry tube, connected to a computer system.

3. Intravenous infusions of either 5-hydroxytryptamine at increasing doses or saline were given over a period of 4 h.

4. 5-Hydroxytryptamine infusion dose-dependently increased plasma 5-hydroxytryptamine from approximately 2 to 10 and 25 nmol/l respectively, as well as urinary excretions of 5-hydroxytryptamine and 5-hydroxyindole acetic acid, a major 5-hydroxytryptamine metabolite.

5. The number of phase III of the migrating motor complex originating in the small intestine was dose-dependently increased by 5-hydroxytryptamine, and found to correlate to the plasma concentration of 5-hydroxytryptamine. The fraction of phase III also increased at the expense of phase II activity. In addition, 5-hydroxytryptamine increased the motility index, propagation velocity of phase III activity and the amplitude of contractions during phase III.

6. Whereas the low dose of 5-hydroxytryptamine (15 nmol · min−1 · kg−1) had no haemodynamic effects, an increase in heart rate by approximately 20 beats/min, without change in blood pressure, was observed at the higher dose (60 nmol · min−1 · kg−1). Respiratory parameters did not change during infusion of 5-hydroxytryptamine at either dose.

7. In conclusion, elevation of circulating 5-hydroxytryptamine by intravenous infusion results in more frequent and faster propagating migrating motor complexes in the human small intestine during the interdigestive period.

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