Control systems of gastrointestinal motility are immature at birth in dogs
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Networks of interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) in the myenteric plexus (Myp) or circular muscle (CM) function as pacemakers for gastrointestinal slow waves. ICC in contact with muscle and closely associated with nerves in the CM may mediate inhibitory neurotransmission. We wondered if ICC in Myp and CM and their connections are immature at birth and mature first in the proximal gut in association with nerves. Tissues from lower esophageal sphincter (LES), pylorus (PYL), small intestine (SI) and colon (CO) of 18 term fetal dogs taken from six females were fixed and prepared for ultrastructural examination and studied. Ganglia were present where expected in the Myp and submucous plexus (SMP). ICC cells were present in the Myp of PYL, SI and CO and appeared to have normal relationships to the outer border of CM as in adults. ICC in CM were found associated with nerves in the LES and in PYL, but not in SI or CO. However, axons in CM were everywhere usually free of glial covering, indicating ongoing migration or development. No organized deep muscular plexus (DMP) in SI or submuscular plexus (SP) in colon was present. Visible gap junctions were absent everywhere except for very rare ones between circular muscle cells. We conclude that at birth the neural and ICC networks of CM are more immature in intestine and colon than in oesophagus and stomach. Development of nerve and ICC of CM in oesophagus and stomach apparently precedes that in the remaining gut. However networks in these regions have not achieved adult organization and ICC and smooth muscle cells are anatomically poorly coupled. These findings suggest the reasons that gut motility at birth will not be adult in pattern are because ICC, nerve and muscle control systems are not fully differentiated. Further developmental delays in ICC and nerve maturation could have serious consequences for feeding of infant animals.
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