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J Histochem Cytochem. 2006 Jan;54(1):39-46. Epub 2005 Aug 8.

Expression of intermediate filament proteins and neuronal markers in the human fetal gut.

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  • 1Department of Pediatric Surgery, Clinical Hospital Mannheim, Heidelberg University, Germany.


The human enteric nervous system (ENS) derives from migrating neural crest cells (NCC) and is structured into different plexuses embedded in the gastrointestinal tract wall. During development of the NCC, a rearrangement of various cytoskeletal intermediate filaments such as nestin, peripherin, or alpha-internexin takes place. Although all are related to developing neurons, nestin is also used to identify neural stem cells. Until now, information about the prenatal development of the human ENS has been very restricted, especially concerning potential stem cells. In this study the expression of nestin, peripherin, and alpha-internexin, but also of neuronal markers such as protein gene product (PGP) 9.5 and tyrosine hydroxylase, were investigated in human fetal and postnatal gut. The tissue samples were rapidly removed and subsequently processed for immunohistochemistry or immunoblotting. Nestin could be detected in all samples investigated with the exception of the 9th and the 12th week of gestation (WOG). Although the neuronal marker PGP9.5 was coexpressed with nestin at the 14th WOG, this could no longer be observed at later time points. Alpha-internexin and peripherin expression also did not appear before the 14th WOG, where they were coexpressed with PGP9.5. This study reveals that the intermediate filament markers investigated are not suitable to detect early neural crest stem cells.

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