Key points: Luminal short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) influence gut physiological function via SCFA receptors and transporters. The contribution of an SCFA receptor, free fatty acid receptor (FFA)3, to the enteric nervous system is unknown. FFA3 is expressed in enteric cholinergic neurons. Activation of neural FFA3 suppresses Cl− secretion induced by nicotinic ACh receptor activation via a Gi/o pathway. Neural FFA3 may have an anti-secretory function by modulating cholinergic neural reflexes in the enteric nervous system. Abstract: The proximal colonic mucosa is constantly exposed to high concentrations of microbially-produced short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Although luminal SCFAs evoke electrogenic anion secretion and smooth muscle contractility via neural and non-neural cholinergic pathways in the colon, the involvement of the SCFA receptor free fatty acid receptor (FFA)3, one of the free fatty acid receptor family members, has not been clarified. We investigated the contribution of FFA3 to cholinergic-mediated secretory responses in rat proximal colon. FFA3 was immunolocalized to enteroendocrine cells and to the enteric neural plexuses. Most FFA3-immunoreactive nerve fibres and nerve endings were cholinergic, colocalized with protein gene product (PGP)9.5, the vesicular ACh transporter, and the high-affinity choline transporter CHT1. In Ussing chambered mucosa–submucosa preparations (including the submucosal plexus) of rat proximal colon, carbachol (CCh)-induced Cl− secretion was decreased by TTX, hexamethonium, and the serosal FFA3 agonists acetate or propionate, although not by an inactive analogue 3-chloropropionate. Serosal application of a selective FFA3 agonist (N-[2-methylphenyl]-[4-furan-3-yl]-2-methyl-5-oxo-1,4,5,6,7,8-hexahydro-quinoline-3-carboxamide; MQC) dose-dependently suppressed the response to CCh but not to forskolin, with an IC50 of 13 μm. Pretreatment with MQC inhibited nicotine-evoked but not bethanechol-evoked secretion. The inhibitory effect of MQC was reversed by pretreatment with pertussis toxin, indicating that FFA3 acts via the Gi/o pathway. Luminal propionate induced Cl− secretion via the cholinergic pathway, which was reduced by MQC, as well as by TTX, hexamethonium or removal of the submucosal plexus. These results suggest that the SCFA-FFA3 pathway has a novel anti-secretory function in that it inhibits cholinergic neural reflexes in the enteric nervous system.
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