The study aims to find the effect of motilin on neuronal activity of gastric distension-responsive neurons in rat hippocampus and its possible mechanism. Single unit discharges in the hippocampal CA1 region were recorded extracellularly by means of four-barrel glass micropipettes in anesthetized rats and the expression of nNOS in hippocampus was observed by fluo-immunohistochemistry staining. Of the 171 recorded neurons, 76.0% were GD-excitatory (GD-E) neurons and 24.0% were GD-inhibited (GD-I) neurons. The 57.6% of GD-E neurons showed an excitatory response to motilin and the same effect was observed in 51.7% GD-I neurons. However, when NOS inhibitor nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME) was administrated previously, the followed motilin-induced excitatory responsiveness of GD-responsive neurons was reduced. In contrast, discharge activity of GD-responsive neurons with motilin was enhanced by pretreatment of NO precursor L-arginine. The expression of nNOS-IR positive neurons was significantly increased in CA1 after administration of motilin. our findings suggested that motilin excited the GD-responsive neurons in the hippocampal CA1 region and the excitatory effect of motilin may be mediated by the endogenous NO. (C) 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.