The histamine H3 receptor (H3R) has been identified in the gastrointestinal tract of the rat by immunohistochemistry, using the first validated anti-H3 receptor antibody. Immunoreactivity to H3R was exclusively localized to the endocrine cells scattered in the gastrointestinal mucosa, with positive cells being prominently abundant in the gastric fundus, while they were rarely found in the other regions. In the fundus, positive cells were distributed in the lower half of the mucosa and their number significantly decreased after a 24 h-fasting period. Double-labeling studies were undertaken to identify the H3R-immunoreactive cell types in the fundic and antral mucosa. The H3R-immunoreactive cells were positive for chromogranin A. In the fundus, approximately 90% of cells positive to H3R were also positive to the histamine-forming enzyme, histidine decarboxylase. None of the cells expressing H3R displayed immunoreactivity for gastrin, somatostatin or ghrelin. Location, the influence of food deprivation and colocalization with histidine decarboxylase indicate that H3R positive cells correspond to the enterochromaffin-like cells (ECL).
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