Cholecystokinin (CCK) is a brain-gut peptide; it functions both as a neuropeptide and as a gut hormone. Although the pancreas and the gallbladder were long thought to be the principal peripheral targets of CCK, CCK receptors are found throughout the gut. It is likely that CCK has a physiological role not only in the stimulation of pancreatic and biliary secretions but also in the regulation of gastrointestinal motility. The motor effects of CCK include postprandial inhibition of gastric emptying and inhibition of colonic transit. It is now evident that at least two different receptors, CCK 1 and CCK 2 (formerly CCK-A and CCK-B, respectively), mediate the actions of CCK. Both localization and functional studies suggest that the motor effects of CCK are mediated by CCK 1 receptors in humans. Since CCK is involved in sensory and motor responses to distension in the intestinal tract, it may contribute to the symptoms of constipation, bloating and abdominal pain that are often characteristic of functional gastrointestinal disorders in general and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), in particular. CCK 1 receptor antagonists are therefore currently under development for the treatment of constipation-predominant IBS. Clinical studies suggest that CCK 1 receptor antagonists are effective facilitators of gastric emptying and inhibitors of gallbladder contraction and can accelerate colonic transit time in healthy volunteers and patients with IBS. These drugs are therefore potentially of great value in the treatment of motility disorders such as constipation and constipation-predominant IBS.
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