Slow wave contraction frequency plateaux in the small intestine are composed of discrete waves of interval increase associated with dislocations
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NEW FINDINGS: What is the central question of this study? What is the nature of slow wave-driven contraction frequency gradients in the small intestine? What is the main finding and its importance? Frequency plateaux are composed of discrete waves of increased interval, each wave associated with a contraction dislocation. Smooth frequency gradients are generated by localized neural modulation of wave frequency, leading to functionally important wave turbulence. Both patterns are emergent properties of a network of coupled oscillators, the interstitial cells of Cajal. ABSTRACT: A gut-wide network of interstitial cells of Cajal generates electrical oscillations (slow waves) that orchestrate waves of muscle contraction. In the small intestine there is a gradient in slow wave frequency from high at the duodenum to low at the terminal ileum. Time-averaged measurements of frequency have suggested either a smooth or a stepped (plateaued) gradient. We measured individual contraction intervals from diameter maps of the mouse small intestine to create interval maps (IMaps). The IMaps showed that each frequency plateau was composed of discrete waves of increased interval. Each interval wave originated at a terminating contraction wave, a 'dislocation', at the proximal boundary of the plateau. In a model chain of coupled phase oscillators, interval wave frequency increased as coupling decreased or as the natural frequency gradient or noise increased. Injuring the intestine at a proximal point, to destroy coupling, suppressed distal steps, which then reappeared with gap junction block by carbenoxolone. This lent further support to our previous hypothesis that lines of dislocations were fixed by points of low coupling strength. Dislocations, induced by electrical field pulses in the intestine and by equivalent phase shift in the model, were associated with interval waves. When the enteric nervous system was active, IMaps showed a chaotic, turbulent pattern of interval change, with no frequency steps or plateaux. This probably resulted from local, stochastic release of neurotransmitters. Plateaux, dislocations, interval waves and wave turbulence arise from a dynamic interplay between natural frequency and coupling in the network of interstitial cells of Cajal.
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