Ultrastructural evidence for communication between intramuscular vagal mechanoreceptors and interstitial cells of Cajal in the rat fundus
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To assess whether afferent vagal intramuscular arrays (IMAs), putative gastrointestinal mechanoreceptors, form contacts with interstitial cells of Cajal of the intramuscular type (ICC-IM) and to describe any such contacts, electron microscopic analyses were performed on the external muscle layers of the fundus containing dextran-labelled diaminobenzidin (DAB)-stained IMAs. Special staining and embedding techniques were developed to preserve ultrastructural features. Within the muscle layers, IMA varicosities were observed in nerve bundles traversing major septa without contact with ICC-IM, contacting unlabelled neurites and glial cells. IMA varicosities were encountered in minor septa in contact with ICC-IM which were not necessarily in close contact with muscle cells. In addition, IMA varicosities were observed within muscle bundles in close contact with ICC-IM which were in gap junction contact with muscle cells. IMAs formed varicosities containing predominantly small agranular vesicles, occasionally large granular vesicles and prejunctional thickenings in apposition to ICC-IM processes, indicating communication between ICC and IMA via synapse-like contacts. Taken together, these different morphological features are consistent with a hypothesized mechanoreceptor role for IMA-ICC complexes. Intraganglionic laminar ending varicosities contacted neuronal somata and dendrites in the myenteric plexus of the fundus, but no contacts with ICC associated with Auerbach's plexus were encountered.
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