Mechanisms regulating the content of the putative peptide transmitters, substance P and somatostatin, were examined in several neuronal populations in culture. Substance P levels increased more than 25-fold within 48 h in sympathetic neurons of the explanted rat superior cervical ganglion, and remained elevated for 4 weeks. Identity of the peptide was authenticated by combined high pressure liquid chromatography-radioimmunoassay. Veratridine prevented the increase of substance P in vitro, and tetrodotoxin blocked the veratridine effect, suggesting that sodium ion influx and membrane depolarization prevent peptide elevation. Veratridine (or potassium)-induced membrane depolarization released substance P into the culture medium through a calcium-dependent process. Consequently, at least some veratridine effects are attributable to release and subsequent depletion of ganglion peptide. However, the inhibitory effects of veratridine were far greater than could be accounted for by the quantity of peptide released, suggesting a separate influence on net synthesis (synthesis less catabolism) of substance P. Viewed in conjunction with previous in vivo studies, our observations suggest that trans-synaptic impulses, through the mediation of postsynaptic sodium flux, release substance P from sympathetic neurons and also regulate intracellular peptide metabolism. To determine whether the processes regulating substance P in sympathetic neurons reflect generalized mechanisms, a different peptide, somatostatin, was examined in sympathetic neurons; moreover, substance P was examined in a different neuronal population, special sensory neurons of the nodose ganglion. Substance P levels increased significantly in both sympathetic and sensory neurons after explantation, and somatostatin levels increased in sympathetic neurons. In each instance, the increase was dependent upon the presence of the calcium ions. Moreover, these increases were all prevented by veratridine, in a tetrodotoxin-sensitive manner. Our observations suggest that common regulatory mechanisms govern peptide transmitter metabolism in diverse neuronal populations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas