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Autonomic Neuroscience - Oral Physiology and Pharmacology


The research focuses on the physiology and pharmacology of autonomic neuro-effector systems. Over the years a number of tissues have served as model organs in our studies such as the heart, the urinary bladder, the urethra, the pancreatic gland and, in particular, salivary glands.

Presently, interest is focused on the various transmitter mechanisms involved in the short-term (secretion and blood flow) as well as in the long-term regulation (mitosis, growth promoting factors, protein synthesis and receptor sensitivity) of salivary glands, and further on the composition of the saliva and the various functions of the saliva.

Particular attention is being paid to the action of a number of non-conventional transmitters such as neuropeptides and nitric oxide and their interactions with the classical transmitters as well as to the plasticity of the various mechanisms.

The action of some gastro-intestinal hormones (cholecystokinin, gastrin and melatonin) on various salivary glandular activities is studied, including synergistic interactions between hormones and the autonomic nervous system. Moreover, anti-inflammatory effects in the glands exerted by gastro-intestinal hormones are being explored. In addition, the possibility of efferent functions of sensory nerves in the glands is also being tested. The minor salivary glands, located just beneath the oral epithelium, are of major importance for the protection of the oral mucosa, and the innervation and secretion of these glands are being investigated. A patented mode of stimulation, and avoiding adverse effects, for the treatment of mouth dryness was developed in collaboration with a pharmaceutical company.

The regulation of specific iodide transport mechanisms in salivary glands are investigated in order to find tools to protect the glands from destruction during administration of radiolabelled iodide in the treatment of thyreoideal tumors. Moreover, the phenomenon of clozapine-induced sialorrhea is explored as well as possibilities to reduce a disturbing drooling.

Both in vivo and in vitro physiological/pharmacological techniques are used as well as molecular biology techniques and proteomics, and further, assessments using immunochemistry, histology including ultrastructural morphology, and morphometry are performed within the group or as a result of collaborative work.

In line with the oral physiology/pharmacology directed interest of the group, human studies are carried out in collaboration with The Dental School in Gothenburg and the ENT-clinic, Sahlgrenska University Hospital. Moreover an extensive collaboration is presently taken place with The Catholic University of Rome (Prof Castagnola), The University of Cagliari (Profs Riva and Irene Messana) and The National Institute for Natural Sciences, Okasaka (Prof Murakami).

Autonomic Neuroscience Unit

Jörgen Ekström, Tania Godoy, Torsten Grunditz, Gunnhild Gudnadottir, Nina Khosravani and Ann-Christine Reinhold

Bild på Jörgen Ekström






Jörgen Ekström M D, Ph D
Professor in Pharmacology

International Association of Dental Research's
"Distinguished Scientist Award for Salivary Research" in 2004

Visiting Professor, Cagliari University, 2007-
Inserted into the Doctorate board of teachers
in Morphological Science (Gagliari University) and
in Cellular and Molecular Biochemistry/Proteomics
(The Catholic University, Rome)

Professor in Oral Biology,
Senior Lecturer/Acting Professor in Physiology and
Senior Research Fellow of the Swedish Medical Research Council
in the field of "Autonomic Nervous System Biology"

Recent Thesis

ÇEVIK ARAS H. Secretory and anti-inflammatory actions of some gastro-intestinal hormones in salivary glands. 2009. The Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Chalmers Reproservice, Gothenburg, Sweden, 1-44. ISBN 978-91-628-7867-2.

KHOSRAVANI N. On the innervation of salivary glands and treatment of dry mouth an experimental and clinical study. 2009. The Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Chalmers Reproservice, Gothenburg, Sweden, 1-54, ISBN-978-91-628-7939-6.

Selected papers and reviews

EKSTRÖM J, KHOSRAVANI N. Regulatory Mechanisms and Salivary Gland Functions. In: Diseases and Disorders of Salivary Glands, chpt 2, eds Bradley PJ, Guntinas-Lichius O. Georg Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart. In press.

ÇEVIK ARAS H, EKSTRÖM J. Anti-inflammatory action of cholecystokinin and melatonin in the rat parotid gland. Oral Dis. 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1601-0825.2010.01672.x, 1-7.

EKSTRÖM J, GODOY T, RIVA A. N-Desmethylclozapine exerts dual and opposite effects on salivary secretion in the rat. Eur J Oral Sci. 2010; 118: 1-8.

EKSTRÖM J, GODOY T, RIVA A. Clozapine: agonistic and antagonistic salivary secretory actions. J Dent Res. 2010; 89: 276-280.

KHOSRAVANI N, BIRKHED D, EKSTRÖM J. The cholinesterase inhibitor physostigmine for the local treatment of dry mouth: a randomized study. Eur J Oral Sci. 2009; 117: 209-217.

EKSTRÖM J, MURAKAMI M, INZITARI R, KHOSRAVANI N, FANALI C, CABRAS T, FUJITA-YOSHIGAKI J, SUGIYA H, MESSANA I, CASTAGNOLA M. RP-HPLC-ESI-MS characterization of novel peptide fragments related to rat parotid secretory protein in parasympathetic induced saliva. J Sep Sci. 2009; 32: 2944-52.

ÇEVIK ARAS H, EKSTRÖM J. Melatonin-evoked in vivo secretion of protein and amylase from the parotid gland of the anaesthetized rat. J Pineal Res 2008; 45: 413-421.

EKSTRÖM J, ÇEVIK ARAS H, SAYARDOUST S. Neuronal- and hormonal-induced protein synthesis and mitotic activity in the rat parotid gland and the dependence on NO-generation. J Oral Biosci. 2007; 49: 31-38.

KHOSRAVANI N, SANDBERG M, EKSTRÖM J. The otic ganglion in rats and its parotid connection: cholinergic pathways, reflex secretion and a secretory role for the facial nerve. Exp Physiol. 2006; 91: 239-47.

ÇEVIK ARAS H, EKSTRÖM J. Cholecystokinin- and gastrin-induced protein and amylase secretion from the parotid gland of the anaesthetized rat. Regul Pept. 2006; 134: 89-96.

SAYARDOUST S, EKSTRÖM J. Nitric oxide-dependent in vitro secretion of amylase from innervated or chronically denervated parotid glands of the rat in response to isoprenaline and vasoactive intestinal peptide. Exp Physiol 2003; 88: 371-378.

EKSTRÖM J, HELANDER H F. 2002. Secretion from submucosal salivary glands of the ferret in response to a cholinesterase inhibitor applied onto the oral mucosa. Eur J Oral Sci 2002; 110: 230-236.

HEDNER E, BIRKHED D, HEDNER J, EKSTRÖM J, HELANDER H F. Stimulation of minor salivary glands by intraoral treatment with the cholinesterase inhibitor physostigmine in man. Eur J Oral Sci 2001; 109: 371-374.

EKSTRÖM J. Gustatory-salivary reflexes induce non-adrenergic, non-cholinergic acinar degranulation in the rat parotid gland. Exp Physiol 2001; 86: 475-480.

EKSTRÖM J. Salivationens reglering. Tandläkartidningen 2000; 92 (13): 36-43.

EKSTRÖM J, ENGDAHL HAVEL G, REINHOLD A.-C. Parasympathetic non-adrenergic, non-cholinergic induced protein synthesis and mitogenic activity in rat salivary glands. Exp Physiol 2000; 85: 171-176.

EKSTRÖM J. Role of nonadrenergic, noncholinergic autonomic transmitters in salivary glandular activities in vivo. In: Garrett JR, Ekström J, Anderson LC, editors. Frontiers of oral biology, vol 11. Neural Mechanisms of Salivary Gland Secretion. Basel: Karger; 1999. p. 94-130.

EKSTRÖM J. Degeneration secretion and supersensitivity in salivary glands following denervations, and the effects on choline acetyltransferase activity In: Garrett JR, Ekström J, Anderson LC, editors. Frontiers of oral biology, vol 11. Neural Mechanisms of Salivary Gland Secretion. Basel: Karger; 1999. p. 166-184.


Contact Information

Department of Pharmacology

POB 431, SE-405 30 Gothenburg

Visiting Address:
Medicinaregatan 13

+46 31 786 0000 (switchboard)

+46 31 786 3164

Page Manager: Lennart Svensson|Last update: 6/3/2010

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