Effects of gap junction inhibition on contraction waves in the murine small intestine in relation to coupled oscillator theory
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Waves of contraction in the small intestine correlate with slow waves generated by the myenteric network of interstitial cells of Cajal. Coupled oscillator theory has been used to explain steplike gradients in the frequency (frequency plateaux) of contraction waves along the length of the small intestine. Inhibition of gap junction coupling between oscillators should lead to predictable effects on these plateaux and the wave dislocation (wave drop) phenomena associated with their boundaries. It is these predictions that we wished to test. We used a novel multicamera diameter-mapping system to measure contraction along 25- to 30-cm lengths of murine small intestine. There were typically two to three plateaux per length of intestine. Dislocations could be limited to the wavefronts immediately about the terminated wave, giving the appearance of a three-pronged fork, i.e., a fork dislocation; additionally, localized decreases in velocity developed across a number of wavefronts, ending with the terminated wave, which could appear as a fork, i.e., slip dislocations. The gap junction inhibitor carbenoxolone increased the number of plateaux and dislocations and decreased contraction wave velocity. In some cases, the usual frequency gradient was reversed, with a plateau at a higher frequency than its proximal neighbor; thus fork dislocations were inverted, and the direction of propagation was reversed. Heptanol had no effect on the frequency or velocity of contractions but did reduce their amplitude. To understand intestinal motor patterns, the pacemaker network of the interstitial cells of Cajal is best evaluated as a system of coupled oscillators.
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