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Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2006 Apr;290(4):G710-8. Epub 2005 Dec 8.

Anatomic modifications in the enteric nervous system of piebald mice and physiological consequences to colonic motor activity.

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  • 1Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, University of Nevada School of Medicine, Reno, 89557, USA.


It has been assumed that in piebald lethal mice that develop megacolon, impaired colonic motor activity is restricted to the aganglionic distal colon. Peristaltic mechanical recordings, immunohistochemistry, and quantitative PCR were used to investigate whether regions of the colon, other than the aganglionic segment, may also show anatomical modifications and dysfunctional colonic motor activity. Contrary to expectations, colonic migrating motor complexes (MMCs) were absent along the whole colon of piebald lethal homozygote mice and severely impaired in heterozygote siblings. Aganglionosis was detected not only in the distal colon of piebald homozygote lethal mice (mean length: 20.4 +/- 2.1 mm) but also surprisingly in their heterozygote siblings (mean length: 12.4 +/- 1.1 mm). Unlike homozygote lethal mice, piebald heterozygotes showed no signs of megacolon. Interestingly, mRNA expression for PGP 9.5 was also dramatically reduced (by 71-99%) throughout the entire small and large bowel in both homozygote lethal and heterozygous littermates (by 67-87%). Histochemical staining confirmed a significant reduction in myenteric ganglia along the whole colon. In summary, the piebald mutation in homozygote lethal and heterozygote siblings is associated with dramatic reductions in myenteric ganglia throughout the entire colon and not limited to the distal colon as originally thought. Functionally, this results in an absence or severe impairment of colonic MMC activity in both piebald homozygote lethal and heterozygote siblings, respectively. The observation that piebald heterozygotes have an aganglionic distal colon (mean length: 12 mm) but live a normal murine life span without megacolon suggests that aganglionosis >12 mm and the complete absence of colonic MMCs may be required before any symptoms of megacolon arise.

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