1. Intracellular recordings were made from submucosal neurones of the guinea‐pig ileum. The actions of noradrenaline, somatostatin and [Met5]enkephalin on nicotinic synaptic potentials (EPSPs) were studied. 2. In one series of experiments, agonists were applied by superfusion; noradrenaline (0.1‐20 microM) decreased EPSP amplitude by 95‐100% in all neurones. Similar application of somatostatin (1‐100 nM) inhibited EPSPs in about half the neurones by a maximum of 40%. [Met5]enkephalin (0.1‐10 microM) did not alter EPSPs. Idazoxan and yohimbine competitively antagonized the action of noradrenaline with dissociation equilibrium constants of 20 and 30 nM respectively. 3. In another series of experiments, noradrenaline and somatostatin were applied locally from a pipette so that they reached presynaptic terminals but not the cell bodies or axons of the presynaptic cell: noradrenaline inhibited EPSPs by 90% in all neurones but somatostatin had no effect. When applied locally to the cell bodies giving rise to the presynaptic fibres, both agonists inhibited EPSPs in half the neurones by 40%. 4. When noradrenaline was applied locally to presynaptic terminals, the latency to onset of noradrenaline to inhibit EPSPs was 45‐160 ms; cadmium applied similarly depressed EPSPs in 5‐50 ms. 5. Pertussis toxin pre‐treatment only partially blocked presynaptic inhibition caused by noradrenaline but abolished the reduction of EPSP amplitude by somatostatin. 6. It is concluded that noradrenaline and somatostatin reduce the amplitude of the fast EPSP because they hyperpolarize cell bodies and prevent action potential initiation. Noradrenaline, but not somatostatin, has an additional action to inhibit acetylcholine release by acting at nerve terminal receptors. 7. The presynaptic inhibitory action of noradrenaline results from activation of alpha 2‐adrenoceptors at nerve terminals but the mechanism(s) by which these presynaptic receptors act cannot be explained adequately by either activation of a potassium conductance and/or inhibition of a calcium conductance.
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