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Keywords:

  • Parkinson's disease;
  • gastroparesis;
  • gastrointestinal motility;
  • gastrointestinal hormones;
  • ghrelin

ABSTRACT

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Search Strategy
  4. Gastric Structure and Function
  5. Control of Gastric Emptying
  6. Alpha-Synuclein and the Stomach in PD
  7. Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  8. Ghrelin
  9. Treatment of Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  10. Conclusions and Future Horizons
  11. Acknowledgments
  12. Author Roles
  13. Financial Disclosures
  14. References

Gastrointestinal symptoms are evident in all stages of Parkinson's disease (PD). Most of the gastrointestinal abnormalities associated with PD are attributable to impaired motility. At the level of the stomach, this results in delayed gastric emptying. The etiology of delayed gastric emptying in PD is probably multifactorial but is at least partly related to Lewy pathology in the enteric nervous system and discrete brainstem nuclei. Delayed gastric emptying occurs in both early and advanced PD but is underdetected in routine clinical practice. Recognition of delayed gastric emptying is important because it can cause an array of upper gastrointestinal symptoms, but additionally it has important implications for the absorption and action of levodopa. Delayed gastric emptying contributes significantly to response fluctuations seen in people on long-term l-dopa therapy. Neurohormonal aspects of the brain-gut axis are pertinent to discussions regarding the pathophysiology of delayed gastric emptying in PD and are also hypothesized to contribute to the pathogenesis of PD itself. Ghrelin is a gastric-derived hormone with potential as a therapeutic agent for delayed gastric emptying and also as a novel neuroprotective agent in PD. Recent findings relating to ghrelin in the context of PD and gastric emptying are considered. This article highlights the pathological abnormalities that may account for delayed gastric emptying in PD. It also considers the wider relevance of abnormal gastric pathology to our current understanding of the etiology of PD. © 2013 International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society

Gastrointestinal (GI) dysfunction is common in all stages of PD,1 with approximately 30% of patients reporting GI symptoms.[2, 3] Structural and functional abnormalities of the GI tract are evident in PD and almost the entire length of the GI tract is vulnerable to dysfunction[4] (Table 1).

Table 1. GI symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease (adapted from Pfeiffer[1])
Level of the GI tractSite of dysfunctionProblem
  1. GI, gastrointestinal.

Upper GI tractMouthSialorrhea
  Dental deterioration
 PharynxOropharyngeal dysphagia
 EsophagusEsophageal dysphagia
 StomachDelayed gastric emptying
  Gastroesophageal reflux
Lower GI tractSmall intestineDilatation
 Large intestineConstipation
  Dysmotility
  Volvulus
  Megacolon
  Perforation
 RectumDefecatory difficulties

Impaired motility underlies most of the GI symptoms associated with PD.[5] Constipation, an example of impaired colonic motility, is the most recognized example of GI dysfunction in PD. Constipation is reported by close to 90% of all patients,[4] with the rates rising as the disease progresses.[6, 7] Constipation is also a well described pre-motor feature.[8-10]

Pathological and functional abnormalities of the stomach have to date received less attention than colonic abnormalities but it can be argued that they are just as important from a patient and physician perspective. The stomach is one of the earliest sites of alpha-synuclein deposition in PD,[11] suggesting that the stomach is integral to the pathogenesis of PD.

This review focuses upon delayed gastric emptying in PD, a common but under recognized problem. Delayed gastric emptying can cause problematic upper GI symptoms and can negatively impact upon the absorption of levodopa in PD, contributing to response fluctuations.

The pathophysiology of delayed gastric emptying in PD is unproven but is likely multifactorial. As is described in this review, alpha-synuclein aggregation and abnormalities in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve (DMNV) and the enteric nervous system (ENS) are implicated.[12] Interplay between these 2 areas, the so-called brain-gut axis, involves complex neural and hormonal processes. Examples of hormones operating along this axis in the regulation of appetite and GI motility include: ghrelin, motilin, orexin, cholecystokinin (CCK), glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), and peptide YY (PYY).[13] In this review we focus on ghrelin as an exemplar hormone with both GI and central nervous system (CNS) actions. Exploiting ghrelin's dual neural and GI actions, it has been tested as a therapy for delayed gastric emptying[14, 15] and, most excitingly, ghrelin also shows promise as a neuroprotective agent in PD.[16, 17]

Search Strategy

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Search Strategy
  4. Gastric Structure and Function
  5. Control of Gastric Emptying
  6. Alpha-Synuclein and the Stomach in PD
  7. Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  8. Ghrelin
  9. Treatment of Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  10. Conclusions and Future Horizons
  11. Acknowledgments
  12. Author Roles
  13. Financial Disclosures
  14. References

This review focuses on gastric dysfunction in PD but is not an exhaustive appraisal of the literature. It focuses on seminal studies or those with novel findings, with a particular emphasis on histopathological and clinical correlates.

Articles were identified through a Medline search of English language articles from 1946 to the first week of May 2013 using the following MeSH terms: Parkinson disease, gastroparesis, gastrointestinal motility, nonmotor, non-motor, gastrointestinal hormones, ghrelin.

Gastric Structure and Function

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Search Strategy
  4. Gastric Structure and Function
  5. Control of Gastric Emptying
  6. Alpha-Synuclein and the Stomach in PD
  7. Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  8. Ghrelin
  9. Treatment of Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  10. Conclusions and Future Horizons
  11. Acknowledgments
  12. Author Roles
  13. Financial Disclosures
  14. References

The stomach plays an early, critical role in the complex process of digestion. Although the stomach has only 1 chamber, it can functionally be considered in 3 regions: the proximal stomach, the distal stomach and the pylorus.[18] The motor activity and contractile patterns of these 3 regions are quite distinct but they operate in unison to maintain normal gastric emptying. The proximal stomach primarily acts as a receptive chamber and is able to adapt its size in response to an ingested meal such that a stable intragastric pressure is maintained,[19] thus allowing continued meal ingestion until satiation. This vagally mediated process[20] is termed the gastric accommodation reflex. The distal stomach is active in the fed and fasted states. Following a meal, strong contractile pulses in the distal stomach break up food particles and in interdigestive periods a cyclical pattern of contractile activity termed the migrating motor complex (MMC) is observed. These stereotypic motor complexes help to clear the stomach of digestive remnants and are vital for the maintenance of normal gastric emptying.[21]

Several GI hormones regulate gastric motility and many also act in the brain to influence appetite.[13] A full description of the roles of each of these hormones is beyond the scope of this article and has been addressed comprehensively in previous reviews.[13, 22, 23] Table 2 summarizes the hormones secreted in response to a meal and also those which act during periods of fasting.

Table 2. Gastrointestinal hormones secreted in the fed and fasted state (adapted from Khoo et al.[22] and Sanger and Lee[13])
Hormones secreted in response to a mealHormones secreted in the fasting state
GastrinMotilin
Cholecystokinin (CCK)Ghrelin
LeptinSomatostatin
EnterostatinXenin
Peptide YY (PYY)Orexin A and B
Apolipoprotein A-IV 
Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP1) 
Glucagon-like peptide-2 (GLP2) 
Glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) 
Pancreatic polypeptide 
Oxyntomodulin 
Amylin 

Control of Gastric Emptying

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Search Strategy
  4. Gastric Structure and Function
  5. Control of Gastric Emptying
  6. Alpha-Synuclein and the Stomach in PD
  7. Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  8. Ghrelin
  9. Treatment of Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  10. Conclusions and Future Horizons
  11. Acknowledgments
  12. Author Roles
  13. Financial Disclosures
  14. References

Neural Control of Gastric Emptying

Gastric emptying is regulated by extrinsic neural influences via vagal and splanchnic pathways and intrinsic innervation via the ENS. The ENS is an extensive neural network that runs the entire length of the GI tract and is sometimes referred to as the “second brain”[24] because it contains nearly 100 million neurons and can function independently of the CNS.[25] The ENS consists of 2 ganglionated nerve plexuses: the submucosal (Meissner's) plexus; and the myenteric (Auerbach's) plexus, which influences smooth muscle activity in the GI tract.[25] Although the ENS can function autonomously, it closely interacts with the vagal system. In the stomach, the myenteric plexus connects directly with the vagus nerve (see Fig. 1) providing a direct neural link between brain and stomach.

image

Figure 1. Interaction of the central nervous system with the enteric nervous system via the vagus nerve

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The vagus nerve is integral to the control of gastric emptying and the stomach is richly supplied by vagal efferent and afferent fibers running to and from the smooth muscle layers. Vagal damage is implicated as a cause of delayed gastric emptying as following vagotomy delayed gastric emptying has been demonstrated.[26]

Hormonal Control of Gastric Emptying

Several hormones influence gastric emptying: ghrelin and motilin accelerate emptying while CCK, GLP-1, and PYY delay emptying.[22] The best characterized of these peptides in the context of PD is ghrelin, which we examine in greater depth. To the best of our knowledge, serum levels of the other listed peptides have to date not been extensively evaluated in PD.

The brain-gut axis involves not only neural connections but also hormonal mediators.[13] Specifically ghrelin, CCK, and GLP-1 receptors colocalize with dopaminergic neurons in the basal ganglia. All 3 have been considered as targets for disease-modifying therapy in PD. CCK polymorphisms have been reported to confer an increased risk of hallucinations in PD,[27, 28] but therapies targeting CCK have thus far been ineffective.[29] Agonists of the GLP-1 receptor have been reported to have neuroprotective potential based upon studies in animal models of PD.[30-32] More recently a proof of concept study of the GLP-1 agonist exenatide in 45 patients with moderate PD reported improvements in motor function over 12 months of treatment.[33]

Alpha-Synuclein and the Stomach in PD

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Search Strategy
  4. Gastric Structure and Function
  5. Control of Gastric Emptying
  6. Alpha-Synuclein and the Stomach in PD
  7. Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  8. Ghrelin
  9. Treatment of Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  10. Conclusions and Future Horizons
  11. Acknowledgments
  12. Author Roles
  13. Financial Disclosures
  14. References

Phosphorylated alpha-synuclein in Lewy bodies (LBs) and Lewy neurites (LNs) is the pathological hallmark of idiopathic PD. As described, neural control of gastric emptying is influenced by vagal pathways and the ENS and both are infiltrated by alpha-synuclein early in the disease process.

Braak et al.[34] hypothesized that alpha-synuclein spreads through the brain in a predictable ascending manner and proposed a 6-step pathological staging system for PD. In the pre-motor period of the disease, alpha-synuclein is said to ascend through the brainstem with the DMNV universally affected. As the vagus nerve is central to control of gastric emptying, this early pathological change in the DMNV is pertinent to consideration of the pathophysiology of delayed gastric emptying in early PD.[35, 36]

Alpha-synuclein also extensively infiltrates the ENS,[37-39] and in particular the gastric myenteric plexus (see Fig. 2). The first appearance of alpha-synuclein in the ENS coincides with its appearance in the DMNV,[11] suggesting that the disease process may begin in the stomach and rapidly ascend to the DMNV via the vagus nerve. A pathogenic trigger to the onset of PD has been proposed with possible simultaneous invasion of the gastric ENS and the olfactory centers.[40, 41] Transsynaptic spread of alpha-synuclein to adjacent vulnerable neurons has been described,[42-46] with the process likened to a prion-mediated disorder.[47]

image

Figure 2. Aggregated α-synuclein in the gastric wall (Braak et al.[11] Neuroscience Letters 2006;396:67–72; Fig. 1; permission to republish obtained from Elsevier).

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Several recent animal model studies have further enhanced understanding of the role of the stomach in alpha-synuclein accumulation and spread. Mice chronically exposed to rotenone have been shown to develop alpha-synuclein inclusions within the myenteric plexus.[48] Additionally, direct intragastric rotenone administration in rodents not only led to alpha-synuclein accumulation in the ENS but also remotely in the DMNV.[49] When this experiment was repeated after lesioning the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves, the spread of alpha-synuclein from the ENS to the brain was halted.[50] However, such findings have not been consistently replicated. One recent study of rodents chronically exposed to rotenone reported only minor ENS changes and GI alpha-synuclein expression was actually reduced when compared with controls (although, somewhat paradoxically, there was a significant decrease in tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive neurons in the substantia nigra of rotenone-exposed animals).[51]

Although animal models of PD have inherent limitations, and findings with regard to accumulation and spread of alpha-synuclein are not always consistent, there is an increasing body of evidence to suggest that the stomach may be critical in the pathogenesis of PD.

Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Search Strategy
  4. Gastric Structure and Function
  5. Control of Gastric Emptying
  6. Alpha-Synuclein and the Stomach in PD
  7. Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  8. Ghrelin
  9. Treatment of Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  10. Conclusions and Future Horizons
  11. Acknowledgments
  12. Author Roles
  13. Financial Disclosures
  14. References

When delayed gastric emptying is chronic and symptomatic it is termed gastroparesis. The typical symptoms of gastroparesis include nausea, vomiting, retching, early satiety, bloating loss of appetite, and abdominal discomfort.[52]

There are many recognized causes of gastroparesis (see Table 3), with PD estimated to account for 7.5% of all cases.[53, 54] In the general population, the prevalence of gastroparesis is estimated to be 9.6 per 100,000 men and 37.8 per 100,000 women.[55]

Table 3. Causes of gastroparesis
 
Endocrine/metabolic disturbances
Diabetes mellitus
Hypothyroidism
Uremia
Amyloidosis
Pregnancy
Neurological disease
Parkinson's disease
Muscular dystrophy
Spinal cord disease
Brain stem tumors
Peripheral neuropathy
Connective tissue disorders
Scleroderma
Systemic lupus erythematosus
Gastrointestinal disorders
Gastroesophageal reflux
Peptic ulcers
Viral gastritis
Chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction
Medications
Anticholinergic agents
Opiates
Dopaminergic drugs
Chemotherapeutic agents
Other
Idiopathic
Postsurgery
Following radiation therapy
Chronic liver disease
Anorexia nervosa

There are several recognized, validated ways to measure gastric emptying.[52] However, results obtained through different testing methods are not always comparable, preventing meta-analysis. However, a systematic review has estimated the prevalence of delayed gastric emptying in PD to be 70% to 100%,[56] although much of this may be asymptomatic.[57]

Pathophysiology of Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD

The pathophysiology of delayed gastric emptying in PD is unproven but there are several plausible explanations, suggesting that the etiology may be multifactorial. The roles of the vagal system and the ENS in control of gastric emptying have been outlined and as both are early sites of alpha-synuclein deposition, it is postulated that resultant neural damage and dysfunction contributes to impaired gastric motility. Indirect evidence supporting the hypothesis that abnormal alpha-synuclein accumulation underlies impaired gastric motility in PD comes from studies demonstrating delayed gastric emptying in multiple system atrophy, another synucleinopathy.[58, 59] To the best of our knowledge, no evaluations of gastric emptying in the context of dementia with Lewy bodies have been published. Such wider evaluations of gastric motility in synucleinopathies other than PD would be clinically relevant and may also advance understanding of the pathophysiology of gastroparesis.

Dopaminergic medications may also contribute to delayed gastric emptying. In young and old healthy volunteers, single and multiple doses of l-dopa have been reported to delay gastric emptying.[60-63] While dopaminergic medications may contribute, they are certainly not the sole cause of delayed gastric emptying, because this abnormality has been demonstrated in early untreated cases of PD, as will be described in the next section.[35, 36]

A recent study that reported improved gastric emptying after subthalamic nucleus–deep brain stimulation (STN-DBS)[64] adds a further dimension to current understanding of the pathophysiology of gastroparesis in PD. STN-DBS has previously been reported to improve some non-motor symptoms,[65-68] although the mechanism remains unclear. While the STN and autonomic centers of the brain are interconnected[69] and STN-DBS has been shown to activate autonomic areas,[70-72] the exact mechanism by which STN-DBS influences gastric emptying remains speculative. The authors postulate that the mechanism could in fact be indirect, such that improved motor function, reduced medication doses, and weight gain postsurgery may all contribute to improved gastric motility.[64]

Delayed Gastric Emptying in Early PD

Two studies have assessed gastric emptying in early untreated PD. Tanaka et al.[35] measured gastric emptying rates in 20 treatment-naïve early PD patients (median age 70.5 years, Hoehn & Yahr [H&Y] stage 1–2, median disease duration 0.9 years), 40 patients with advanced treated PD (median age 67.0 years, H&Y stage 3–4, median disease duration 6 years), and 20 healthy controls (median age 69 years). Gastric emptying, measured using the 13C-acetate breath test, was significantly slower in both PD groups compared with controls (P < 0.001) but there was no significant difference between early and advanced disease. Another study[36] reported comparable rates of gastric emptying delay in early and advanced PD but no significant abnormality in subjects with idiopathic rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder (iRBD), a pre-motor phenotype of PD. This suggests that while delayed gastric emptying may be an early feature of PD, screening for gastroparesis as part of the Parkinson's at risk syndrome (PARS) may not be helpful.

Delayed Gastric Emptying in Advanced PD

Longer PD duration alone does not appear to be associated with worse gastroparesis.[35, 36, 73-77] However, advancing motor severity has been reported to correlate with worse gastric emptying delay.[74, 75]

l-Dopa is only absorbed once it reaches the level of the proximal duodenum. Hence gastric emptying speed has been described as the rate-limiting step in the absorption of l-dopa.[78] Gastric emptying rates and plasma l-dopa levels are closely related,[79, 80] underpinning the suggestion that gastroparesis contributes to response fluctuations. In a 1996 study[73] comparing gastric emptying rates in PD patients with and without fluctuations and in healthy controls, gastric retention rates were significantly higher in those with fluctuations compared with non-fluctuators (77.4 ± 15.5% vs 64.0 ± 14.3%, P < 0.05). Not all studies have replicated this finding[76] but indirect evidence in support of gastric emptying contributing to response fluctuations comes from the study of prokinetics, which have been reported to improve l-dopa absorption and motor function.[81, 82]

In non-Parkinsonian individuals, gastric colonization with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is not a cause of delayed gastric emptying. However, there is evidence to suggest that such colonization may also contribute to motor fluctuations.[83] Following H. pylori eradication, l-dopa absorption and motor fluctuations can be improved.[83, 84]

Ghrelin

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Search Strategy
  4. Gastric Structure and Function
  5. Control of Gastric Emptying
  6. Alpha-Synuclein and the Stomach in PD
  7. Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  8. Ghrelin
  9. Treatment of Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  10. Conclusions and Future Horizons
  11. Acknowledgments
  12. Author Roles
  13. Financial Disclosures
  14. References

Ghrelin is an endogenous 28–amino acid peptide, first described in 1999.[85] It is produced in the stomach but the growth hormone secretagogue receptors (GHSR), at which it acts, have been identified in numerous sites within the GI tract, the ENS, and also the CNS. In the GI tract ghrelin exerts prokinetic effects and centrally it enhances appetite.[14] Ghrelin levels peak before eating and fall rapidly as ingestion starts. The hormone is regarded as a key orexigenic hormone. Although ghrelin is a gastric-derived hormone, its secretion appears to be at least in part dependent upon vagal activity because following vagotomy in rodents, the expected pattern of ghrelin secretion is not seen.[86] This may be because GHSRs have been identified within the dorsal vagal complex.[87]

Ghrelin and Gastric Emptying

Several studies have considered ghrelin and ghrelin agonists as therapy for diabetic gastroparesis.[14, 15, 88, 89] Although research into ghrelin agonists is still in an early stage, and has not been undertaken in the context of PD, such agents are promising potential treatments for gastroparesis.

A recurrent feature of the gastroparesis literature has been the poor correlation between gastric emptying measurement and subjective symptoms: it is possible that PD patients offer a novel metric for studying gastric function in terms of dopamine pharmacokinetics as well as motor symptom response.

To date only 1 study has simultaneously measured ghrelin levels and gastric emptying in the context of PD. Arai et al.[64] measured ghrelin levels and gastric emptying in 16 patients with PD before and after STN-DBS. There was no significant association between ghrelin levels and gastric emptying speed in these patients either before or after surgery or on or off l-dopa medications. A recently published study[90] reported that in rodents given l-dopa, ghrelin coadministration prevented l-dopa–induced delayed gastric emptying.

Ghrelin and PD

Aside from the relevance of ghrelin to gastric emptying in PD, this peptide also holds promise in 3 interesting areas: (1) as a contributory factor in PD-associated weight loss; (2) as a biomarker for early PD; and (3) as a neuroprotective agent.

Approximately half of all PD patients have unintentional weight loss,[91] a feature associated with reduced life expectancy.[92] The orexigenic action of ghrelin has spurred interest in it as a potential mediator of weight loss in PD. In PD patients, ghrelin levels are lower in those patients with lower weight.[93] While one would expect ghrelin levels to rise in a malnourished state, the reported lower levels in underweight PD patients may reflect some abnormality of this homeostatic process, which could contribute to spiraling problem of weight loss in PD. Weight gain following DBS surgery is well recognised,[94-101] but the pathophysiology underlying this remains subject of debate. Ghrelin levels have been measured following STN DBS in 4 studies to date: 3 reported no significant change in ghrelin levels post-DBS[64, 102, 103] and 1 reported a positive association between weight gain and ghrelin levels.[104]

Abnormal postprandial ghrelin response patterns may be a useful biomarker in early PD. Unger et al.[87] measured fasting and postprandial ghrelin levels in 19 drug naïve PD patients, 20 treated PD patients, 11 subjects with iRBD, and 20 healthy controls. After the initial normal postprandial decline, ghrelin levels rose significantly slower in the PD and iRBD patients compared with controls (P = 0.002 and P = 0.037, respectively). Whether or not such abnormal ghrelin secretion patterns are secondary to underlying abnormalities of the vagal system or a primary feature of early disease remains unclear. The intertwined relationship between ghrelin and the vagus nerve as demonstrated through animal models[86] suggests that synergy between these neural and hormonal elements of the brain-gut axis may be key to understanding the pathogenesis of PD.

The study of ghrelin as a potential neuroprotective agent in PD is at an early stage but the peptide holds promise as a novel disease-modifying target. Rodent studies using a 1-methyl-4-phenly-1,2,5,6 tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) model for PD have reported reduced dopaminergic cell damage after administration of exogenous ghrelin.[105, 106] Ghrelin reduces dopaminergic damage through decreased microglial and caspase activation and it is postulated that 5′adenosine monophosphate activated protein kinase (AMPK) increases mitophagy, thereby enhancing overall mitochondrial function.[17] Ghrelin also modulates mood, anxiety, learning, and memory,[16] and hence may be a useful therapy in a variety of disease settings.

Treatment of Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Search Strategy
  4. Gastric Structure and Function
  5. Control of Gastric Emptying
  6. Alpha-Synuclein and the Stomach in PD
  7. Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  8. Ghrelin
  9. Treatment of Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  10. Conclusions and Future Horizons
  11. Acknowledgments
  12. Author Roles
  13. Financial Disclosures
  14. References

Cisapride was an effective prokinetic and useful adjunct therapy in patients with motor fluctuations.[81, 82] However, cisapride was withdrawn from the market in the late 1990s due to reports of cardiotoxicity.[107] Prucalopride is a highly selective 5-HT4 receptor agonist that accelerates small and large intestine transit.[108] It may have a role as a gastric prokinetic, but this has yet to be studied.

Dopamine receptor agonists such as metoclopramide are the mainstay of treatment for gastroparesis in the general population[109] but due to the potential for extrapyramidal side effects, metoclopramide is not suitable for long-term use in PD. Domperidone does not cross the blood brain barrier and has been shown to enhance gastric emptying and l-dopa bioavailability in PD,[110] but is not licensed in every country.

Macrolide antibiotics are motilin agonists that stimulate phase III of the MMC and hence enhance gastric emptying. Macrolides are effective in gastroparesis,[109, 111-113] but the antimicrobial properties limit their long-term use. Non-antimicrobial motilin agonists have been studied in diabetic and idiopathic gastroparesis with mixed results,[114-116] but to date such agents have not been assessed in people with PD.

Ghrelin has a structural homology with the gastric-derived peptide motilin. Both enhance upper gut transit. In 2009,[14] favorable results for infusions of a ghrelin receptor agonist (TZP-101) were reported in people with diabetic gastroparesis. More recently, the same group88 published results of a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study of an oral ghrelin receptor agonist (TZP-102). Gastric emptying parameters did not differ significantly between groups but gastroparesis symptoms improved in the group receiving active treatment. A further study[15] of another oral ghrelin agonist (RM-131) reported significant increases in gastric emptying rates compared with placebo.

There is currently insufficient evidence to support the routine use of intrapyloric botulinum toxin injections for gastroparesis,[117] although a case report of its use in 2 patients with PD was favorable in the short term.[118] Implantation of gastric electrical stimulators has had some favorable reports,[119, 120] although complication rates are not insignificant and long-term outcome data is lacking.

In summary, current therapeutic options for gastroparesis in the context of PD are somewhat limited. The judicious use of domperidone or macrolide antibiotics may be helpful in some cases. Other novel agents, including motilin and ghrelin agonists, have potential but are currently still at an investigational stage of development. Further practical management steps include review of concomitant medications and avoidance where possible of agents known to delay gastric emptying (eg, anticholinergics and opiates). Finally, dietary adjustments such as reducing meal volume while increasing meal frequency (“little and often”) has been advocated as a useful approach in gastroparesis generally.[109]

Conclusions and Future Horizons

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Search Strategy
  4. Gastric Structure and Function
  5. Control of Gastric Emptying
  6. Alpha-Synuclein and the Stomach in PD
  7. Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  8. Ghrelin
  9. Treatment of Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  10. Conclusions and Future Horizons
  11. Acknowledgments
  12. Author Roles
  13. Financial Disclosures
  14. References

Pathological and functional abnormalities of the stomach have been described in all stages of PD. Delayed gastric emptying is a seemingly common consequence of these abnormalities and is a problem with wide ranging implications for many patients with PD. The study of gastric pathology and function in PD holds promise of both enhancing knowledge of the etiopathogenesis of the disease as well as offering potential opportunities for treatment.

There is compelling evidence to suggest that the stomach is integral to the pathophysiology of PD although there remain many unknowns. Whether the early appearance of alpha-synuclein in the stomach is indicative of the disease originating there is still speculative. However, we feel that further exploration of pathological, physiological and hormonal variations in the stomach associated with PD, are likely to provide valuable insights into the condition as a whole.

The search for effective prokinetic agents in the context of PD is ongoing and it may be that exploitation of endogenous peptides such as ghrelin and motilin is valuable in this respect. Exploration of the neuroprotective potential of GI hormones such as ghrelin is at an early stage but is an exciting development in the search for disease modifying therapies. Further examination of the complex neurohormonal brain-gut axis may reveal additional novel therapeutic targets.

Acknowledgments

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Search Strategy
  4. Gastric Structure and Function
  5. Control of Gastric Emptying
  6. Alpha-Synuclein and the Stomach in PD
  7. Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  8. Ghrelin
  9. Treatment of Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  10. Conclusions and Future Horizons
  11. Acknowledgments
  12. Author Roles
  13. Financial Disclosures
  14. References

S.M. is funded by Parkinson's UK, Michael J. Fox Foundation, and GlaxoSmithKline; these funding agencies had no direct involvement in the content or writing of this article. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

Author Roles

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Search Strategy
  4. Gastric Structure and Function
  5. Control of Gastric Emptying
  6. Alpha-Synuclein and the Stomach in PD
  7. Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  8. Ghrelin
  9. Treatment of Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  10. Conclusions and Future Horizons
  11. Acknowledgments
  12. Author Roles
  13. Financial Disclosures
  14. References

Sarah Marrinan undertook the literature review, wrote the first draft and managed subsequent revisions of the manuscript. Anton Emmanuel contributed to the content of the review and revision of the manuscript. David Burn contributed to the conceptualization of the review, its structure and content and revision of the manuscript.

Financial Disclosures

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Search Strategy
  4. Gastric Structure and Function
  5. Control of Gastric Emptying
  6. Alpha-Synuclein and the Stomach in PD
  7. Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  8. Ghrelin
  9. Treatment of Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  10. Conclusions and Future Horizons
  11. Acknowledgments
  12. Author Roles
  13. Financial Disclosures
  14. References

Sarah Marrinan is supported by grants from Parkinson's UK, GlaxoSmithKline and the Michael J Fox Foundation. She has received honoraria from GE Healthcare and sponsorship from UCB for the attendance of conferences.

Anton Emmanuel has received grants from the Michael J Fox foundation and GlaxoSmithKline Ltd. He has served on advisory boards for Shire.

David Burn has received grants from NIHR, Wellcome Trust, Parkinson's UK, the Michael J Fox foundation and GlaxoSmithKline Ltd. He has received honoraria from Teva-Lundbeck and UCB in the past two years and acted as consultant for GSK and Genus.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. ABSTRACT
  3. Search Strategy
  4. Gastric Structure and Function
  5. Control of Gastric Emptying
  6. Alpha-Synuclein and the Stomach in PD
  7. Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  8. Ghrelin
  9. Treatment of Delayed Gastric Emptying in PD
  10. Conclusions and Future Horizons
  11. Acknowledgments
  12. Author Roles
  13. Financial Disclosures
  14. References