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Papers of the Week

Papers: 29 Jan 2022 - 4 Feb 2022

Pharmacology/Drug Development



Front Physiol


Constipation Caused by Anti-calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide Migraine Therapeutics Explained by Antagonism of Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide’s Motor-Stimulating and Prosecretory Function in the Intestine.


The development of small-molecule calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) receptor antagonists (gepants) and of monoclonal antibodies targeting the CGRP system has been a major advance in the management of migraine. In the randomized controlled trials before regulatory approval, the safety of these anti-CGRP migraine therapeutics was considered favorable and to stay within the expected profile. Post-approval real-world surveys reveal, however, constipation to be a major adverse event which may affect more than 50% of patients treated with erenumab (an antibody targeting the CGRP receptor), fremanezumab or galcanezumab (antibodies targeting CGRP). In this review article we address the question whether constipation caused by inhibition of CGRP signaling can be mechanistically deduced from the known pharmacological actions and pathophysiological implications of CGRP in the digestive tract. CGRP in the gut is expressed by two distinct neuronal populations: extrinsic primary afferent nerve fibers and distinct neurons of the intrinsic enteric nervous system. In particular, CGRP is a major messenger of enteric sensory neurons which in response to mucosal stimulation activate both ascending excitatory and descending inhibitory neuronal pathways that enable propulsive (peristaltic) motor activity to take place. In addition, CGRP is able to stimulate ion and water secretion into the intestinal lumen. The motor-stimulating and prosecretory actions of CGRP combine in accelerating intestinal transit, an activity profile that has been confirmed by the ability of CGRP to induce diarrhea in mice, dogs and humans. We therefore conclude that the constipation elicited by antibodies targeting CGRP or its receptor results from interference with the physiological function of CGRP in the small and large intestine in which it contributes to the maintenance of peristaltic motor activity, ion and water secretion and intestinal transit.