Nociceptin (N/OFQ) exerts multiple effects in the gastrointestinal tract after central or peripheral administration. In the present study, we examined the possible peripheral mechanisms mediating gastric protection by N/OFQ in rats. Gastric mucosal lesions were induced by 50% ethanol (1 ml/rat intragastrically). N/OFQ, administered either intracerebroventricularly (3 microg/rat) or ip (10 microg/kg), significantly reduced macroscopic and histological damage. The protective effect of intracerebroventricular N/OFQ was blocked by atropine, subdiaphragmatic vagotomy, and bretylium. The effect of both central and peripheral N/OFQ was blocked by functional ablation of afferent nerves produced by capsaicin, by the antagonist of calcitonin gene-related peptide, CGRP(8-37), and by the nitric oxide synthase inhibitor, N(G)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester. These results indicate that N/OFQ increases gastric mucosal resistance to ethanol by operating both in the central nervous system and in the periphery. Vagal cholinergic and sympathetic pathways mediate the central activity of N/OFQ, whereas vagal nonmuscarinic pathways mediate the peripheral activity of the peptide. The neuronal circuit involving extrinsic sensory neurons, calcitonin gene-related peptide, and nitric oxide is activated by central as well as peripheral N/OFQ. The study provides evidence that N/OFQ contributes to neurally mediated gastric mucosal protection.
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