Role of gap junctions in structural arrangements of interstitial cells of Cajal and canine ileal smooth muscle
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We examined the structural and functional basis for pacemaking by interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) in circular smooth muscle of the canine ileum. Gap junctions were found between ICC of myenteric plexus (MyP), occasionally between MyP ICC and outer circular smooth muscle cells, between individual outer circular smooth muscle cells, between them and ICC of the deep muscular plexus (DMP), and between DMP ICC. No visible gap junctions connected MyP ICC to longitudinal muscle cells or inner circular muscle cells. Occasionally contacts occurred between the two muscle layers. No special structures were found to connect MyP and DMP ICC networks. Octanol concentration dependently reduced the amplitude and frequency of, but did not abolish, slow waves in circular muscle in isolated ileum recorded near the MyP or the DMP. Slow waves triggered from MyP ICC by a current pulse also persisted. Contractile activity was abolished, cells were depolarized, and fast inhibitory junction potentials were reduced by octanol. We conclude that ICC pacemakers of the MyP and DMP utilize gap junctional conductances for pacemaking function but may not require them. Coupling between the two ICC networks may utilize the circular muscle syncytium.
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