Norepinephrine mediates the transcriptional effects of heterotypic chronic stress on colonic motor function

Barun K. Choudhury, Xuan Zheng Shi, Sushil K. Sarna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Chronic stress precipitates or exacerbates the symptoms of functional bowel disorders, including motility dysfunction. The cellular mechanisms of these effects are not understood. We tested the hypothesis that heterotypic chronic stress (HeCS) elevates the release of norepinephrine from the adrenal medulla, which enhances transcription of the gene-regulating expression of Ca v1.2 (L-type) channels in colonic circular smooth muscle cells, resulting in enhanced colonic motor function. The experiments were performed in rats using a 9-day heterotypic chronic stress (HeCS) protocol. We found that HeCS, but not acute stress, time dependently enhances the contractile response to ACh in colonic circular smooth muscle strips and in single dissociated smooth muscle cells, the plasma levels of norepinephrine and the mRNA and protein expressions of the α1C subunit of Cav1.2 channels. These effects result in faster colonic transit and increase in defecation rate. The effects of HeCS are blocked by adrenalectomy but not by depletion of norepinephrine in sympathetic neurons. The inhibition of receptors for glucocortocoids, corticotropin-releasing hormone or nicotine also does not block the effects of heterotypic chronic stress. Norepinephrine acts on α- and β3-adrenergic receptors to induce the transcription of α1C subunit. We conclude that HeCS alters colonic motor function by elevating the plasma levels of norepinephrine. Colonic motor dysfunction is associated with enhanced gene transcription of Cav1.2 channels in circular smooth muscle cells. These findings suggest the potential cellular mechanisms by which heterotypic chronic stress may exacerbate motility dysfunction in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G1238-G1247
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2009


  • Corticosterone
  • Corticotropin-releasing hormone
  • Enteric neurotransmitters
  • Smooth muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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