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Physiological role of somatostatin in the digestive tract: gastric acid secretion, intestinal absorption, and motility.


Somatostatin is found in both endocrine cells and nerve fibres of the gastrointestinal tract and has several inhibitory effects on the digestive tract. Somatostatin is a potent inhibitor of gastrin release; its secretion is regulated predominantly by the cholinergic pathway, which inhibits somatostatin and thus stimulates gastrin release. Gastric acid secretion is inhibited by both the paracrine and circulating peptide (hormonal) effects of somatostatin. Somatostatin secretion is a direct effect of acid on the somatostatin cell, since it is unaffected by the axonal blocker tetrodotoxin. Somatostatin antiserum eliminates the inhibitory effect of somatostatin and thus augments acid secretion. It therefore appears that somatostatin plays a physiological role in regulating gastric acid secretion, and it is possible that a lack of the inhibitory function of somatostatin is an aetiological factor in peptic ulcer disease. Postprandially, a rise in serum somatostatin concentration occurs which is twice as high with protein and fat as it is with carbohydrates. Several studies have shown that somatostatin inhibits nutrient absorption, indicating that somatostatin might be a physiological regulator in the homeostasis of ingested nutrients by modulating the intestinal absorption rate. Experiments have also demonstrated that somatostatin infusion inhibits intestinal motility; the interval between migrating myoelectric complexes is increased, and transit time is increased.

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