Effects of repeated infusions of substance P and vasoactive intestinal peptide on the weights of salivary glands subjected to atrophying influences in rats


Department of Pharmacology, University of Göteborg, Box 33031, 400 33 Gothenburg, Sweden.


  • 1The long-term influence of substance P (SP) and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) on rat salivary gland weight was investigated after parasympathetic denervation or on feeding soft food.
  • 2The parotid gland lost about one-third of its weight within 4–5 days following parasympathetic postganglionic denervation or change in dietary regimen, from pellets to liquid diet, thought to reduce nerve reflex activity.
  • 3Daily i.v. infusions with SP or VIP diminished or largely prevented the fall in parotid gland weight, whereas infusions with pentagastrin, bethanechol and saline had no effect. The infusions were preceded by administration of α- and β-adrenoceptor antagonists; these antagonists were also given to the control animals.
  • 4The effect of SP and VIP on the parotid gland weight appeared to be related to cell size rather than to cell number, as judged by measurements of RNA and DNA.
  • 5Observations on the two other major salivary glands underlined the fact that different gland types in the same animal behave differently. Parasympathetic preganglionic denervation (decentralization) lowered the weights of the sublingual and submandibular glands, whereas liquid diet only reduced the weight of the sublingual gland. SP and VIP did not affect the weights of the submandibular glands, but VIP prevented the slight fall in sublingual gland weight induced by liquid diet.
  • 6The present results suggest a trophic role in rats for SP and VIP on parotid glands and for VIP on sublingual glands. Such an influence may be exerted naturally as a result of their release from nerves containing these peptides around acini.