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G protein-coupled receptor mediates the action of castor oil
Date:5/21/2012

This press release is available in German.

Castor oil is known primarily as an effective laxative; however, it was also used in ancient times with pregnant women to induce labour. Only now have scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research succeeded in unravelling the mysteries of the action mechanism. A receptor by the name of EP3 on the cells of the intestine and uterus is apparently responsible. This is activated by an ingredient in the oil.

The oil obtained from the seeds of the castor oil plant Ricinus communis is one of the oldest drugs known to man. The first mention of it as a laxative can be found in 3500-year-old Ancient Egyptian papyrus scrolls. Castor oil was also used for medical purpos-es in Greek and Roman times. And for many centuries, it has also been used to induce labour. Yet despite being used worldwide in conventional and folk medicine, until now it has not been clear how castor oil's laxative and labour-inducing effects actually work.

Scientists working with Stefan Offermanns and Sorin Tunaru at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim have now revealed the long-held secret: "It has been known for many years that a certain ingredient, namely ricinoleic acid released from the oil in the intestine, is responsible for the effect. However, until now it was assumed that this acted via a local irritation of the intestinal mucosa. We have now been able to show that it is actually a pharmacological effect", said Sorin Tunaru who headed the research project.

The focus of Stefan Offermanns' department is the so-called G protein-coupled recep-tors, a large group of receptors in the body involved primarily in transmitting signals in cells. Sorin Tunaru had initially found effects that are characteristic of these receptors in an experiment with r
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Contact: Professor Dr. Stefan Offermanns
stefan.offermanns@mpi-bn.mpg.de
49-603-270-51202
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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