NONADRENERGIC, NONCHOLINERGIC (NANC) NEURONS
It has been known for many years that autonomic effector tissues (eg, gut, airways, bladder) contain nerve fibers that do not show the histochemical characteristics of either cholinergic or adrenergic fibers. Both motor and sensory NANC fibers are present. Although peptides are the most common transmitter substances found in these nerve endings, other substances, eg, nitric oxide synthase and purines, are also present in many nerve terminals (Table 6–1). Capsaicin, a neurotoxin derived from chili peppers, can cause the release of transmitter (especially substance P) from such neurons and, if given in high doses, destruction of the neuron.
The enteric system in the gut wall (Figure 6–2) is the most exten-sively studied system containing NANC neurons in addition to cholinergic and adrenergic fibers. In the small intestine, for example, these neurons contain one or more of the following: nitric oxide synthase (which produces nitric oxide; NO), calcitonin gene-related peptide, cholecystokinin, dynorphin, enkephalins, gastrin-releasing peptide, 5-hydroxytryptamine (serotonin), neuropeptide Y, soma-tostatin, substance P, and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP). Some neurons contain as many as five different transmitters.
The sensory fibers in the nonadrenergic, noncholinergic systems are probably better termed “sensory-efferent” or “sensory-local effector” fibers because, when activated by a sensory input,they are capable of releasing transmitter peptides from the sensory ending itself, from local axon branches, and from collaterals that terminate in the autonomic ganglia. These peptides are potent agonists in many autonomic effector tissues.