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J Mol Histol. 2006 Jan;37(1-2):61-8. Epub 2006 Jun 14.

Binding of isolectin IB4 to neurons of the mouse enteric nervous system.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology and Centre for Neuroscience, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia.


The plant lectin, IB4, binds to primary afferent neurons of dorsal root and trigeminal ganglia, where it is selective for nociceptive neurons. In the enteric nervous system of the guinea-pig IB4 labels intrinsic primary afferent neurons, which are believed to have roles as nociceptors. Here we investigate whether IB4 binding is also a marker of intrinsic primary afferent neurons in the mouse. Neurons that bound IB4 were common in the enteric plexuses of the small intestine and colon. Labeled neurons were rare in the stomach, and absent from the esophagus and gallbladder. Binding was to the cell surface, initial parts of axons and to clumps in the cytoplasm. Similar binding occurred on small and medium sized neurons of dorsal root, nodose and trigeminal ganglia. In the enteric nervous system, IB4 revealed large round or oval (type II) neurons, type I neurons with prominent laminar dendrites and small neurons of myenteric ganglia. The type II neurons were immunoreactive for calretinin, and some type I neurons were immunoreactive for nitric oxide synthase. Most neurons in the submucosal ganglia bound IB4, and some of these were vasoactive intestinal peptide immunoreactive. Thus IB4 binds to specific subgroups of enteric neurons in the mouse. These include intrinsic primary afferent neurons, but other neurons, including secretomotor neurons, are labeled. The results suggest that IB4 is not a specific label for enteric nociceptive neurons.

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