Stimulation of enzyme secretion in rat pancreatic slices by cholinergic agonists or by cholecystokinin-pancreozymin (CCK-PZ) and its peptide analogs showed a biphasic dose response curve. The optimal concentrations eliciting an efficient rate of enzyme secretion were 1 microM for carbamylcholine or acetylcholine, and 5 nM and 20 nM for CCK-PZ octapeptide and CCK-PZ, respectively. At higher concentrations of secretagogues, however, the rate of secretion progressively declined, and almost complete inhibition was achieved at 1 mM of carbamylcholine or acetylcholine and at 0.1 microM of CCK-PZ or its octapeptide analog. Atropine displaced the dose-response curve for carbamylcholine to the right so that in the presence of 7 microM atropine a concentration of 1 mM carbamylcholine now gave an optimal rate of enzyme secretion. The ionophore A-23187 which bypasses the receptor and elicits enzyme secretion did not relieve the inhibition caused by supraoptimal concentrations of secretagogues, indicating that the inhibition occurs at the cellular rather than at the receptor level. Secretin had no effect on the inhibition of enzyme secretion by a high concentration of carbamylcholine, indicating that the inhibition was not caused by lack of water and electrolyte secretion. The energy-producing metabolism was not affected since the ATP level in the pancreatic slices was the same in the presence of either inhibitory or optimal concentrations of secretagogues. The inhibition of enzyme secretion was reversible since restoration of efficient enzyme secretion occurred after removal of carbamylcholine (1 mM) by washing, followed by addition of an optimal concentration of CCK-PZ octapeptide. Morphological studies revealed that the presence of inhibitory concentrations of secretagogues caused severe distortion of the lumen structure: disruption of the filamentous system surrounding the lumen, disappearance of microvilli, and production of distended evaginations of the luminal membrane containing cellular material. These changes eventually caused a reduction in the size of the lumen which becomes plugged with secretory material. It is suggested that these changes in the microtubular microfilamentous system could account for the inhibition of enzyme secretion.

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