The neuropeptide neurotensin mediates several intestinal functions, including chloride secretion, motility, and cellular growth. However, whether this peptide participates in intestinal inflammation is not known. Toxin A, an enterotoxin from Clostridium difficile, mediates pseudomembranous colitis in humans. In animal models, toxin A causes an acute inflammatory response characterized by activation of sensory neurons and intestinal nerves and immune cells of the lamina propria. Here we show that neurotensin and its receptor are elevated in the rat colonic mucosa following toxin A administration. Pretreatment of rats with the neurotensin receptor antagonist SR-48,692 inhibits toxin A–induced changes in colonic secretion, mucosal permeability, and histologic damage. Exposure of colonic explants to toxin A or neurotensin causes mast cell degranulation, which is inhibited by SR-48,692. Because substance P was previously shown to mediate mast cell activation, we examined whether substance P is involved in neurotensin-induced mast cell degranulation. Our results show that neurotensin-induced mast cell degranulation in colonic explants is inhibited by the substance P (neurokinin-1) receptor antagonist CP-96,345, indicating that colonic mast activation in response to neurotensin involves release of substance P. We conclude that neurotensin plays a key role in the pathogenesis of C. difficile–induced colonic inflammation and mast cell activation.
Ignazio Castagliuolo, Chi-Chung Wang, Leyla Valenick, Asiya Pasha, Sigfus Nikulasson, Robert E. Carraway, Charalabos Pothoulakis