Molecular, functional, and pharmacological targets for the development of gut promotility drugs

Sushil K. Sarna

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The science of gastrointestinal motility has made phenomenal advances during the last fifty years. Yet, there is a paucity of effective promotility drugs to treat functional bowel disorders that affect 10-29% of the U.S. population. A part of the reason for the lack of effective drugs is our limited understanding of the etiology of these diseases. In the absence of this information, mostly an ad hoc approach has been used to develop the currently available drugs, which are modestly effective or effective in only a subset of the patients with functional bowel disorders. This review discusses a grounds-up approach for development of the next generation of promotility drugs. The approach is based on our current understanding of 1) the different types of contractions that produce overall motility function of mixing and orderly net distal propulsion in major gut organs, 2) the regulatory mechanisms of these contractions, 3) which receptors and intracellular signaling molecules could be targeted to stimulate specific types of contractions to accelerate or retard transit, and 4) the strengths and limitations of animal models and experimental approaches that could screen potential promotility drugs for their efficacy in human gut propulsion in functional bowel disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G545-G555
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2006


  • Enteric neurons
  • Excitation-contraction coupling
  • Functional bowel disorders
  • Gastroparesis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Peristaltic reflex
  • Prokinetic agents
  • Slow waves
  • Smooth muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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