Structural characterization of interstitial cells of Cajal in myenteric plexus and muscle layers of canine colon
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We have carried out a detailed ultrastructural study of the interstitial cells near the myenteric plexus of the canine colon and defined the structural characteristics which distinguish them from other resident non-neural cells. We have also examined the interconnections of these interstitial cells with nerves, the longitudinal muscle, and the circular muscle. In addition, we sought connections between interstitial cells of the myenteric plexus and those described earlier at the inner border of the circular muscle in proximal and distal colon. The interstitial cells of the myenteric plexus were structurally distinctive, and made gap junctions with one another and occasionally with smooth muscle. There seemed to be two subsets of these interstitial cells, one associated with the longitudinal muscle and the other with the circular muscle. Cells of both subsets were often close (less than or equal to 20 nm) to nerve profiles. The interstitial cells near the longitudinal muscle layer penetrated slightly into the muscle layer, but those near the circular muscle did not and neither set contacted the other. Moreover, interstitial cells of Cajal located near the myenteric plexus were never observed to contact those at the inner border of circular muscle. The interstitial cells of Cajal at the canine colon myenteric plexus are structurally organized to provide independent pacemaking activities for the longitudinal and adjacent circular muscle. Their dense innervation suggests that they mediate neural modulation of intestinal pacemaker activities. Moreover, they lack direct contacts with the interstitial cell network at the inner border of circular muscle, which is essential for the primary pacemaking activity of circular muscle. The structural organization of interstitial cells in canine colon is consistent with their proposed role in pacemaking activity of the two muscle layers.
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