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Acta Histochem Cytochem. 2006 Dec 28;39(6):145-53. Epub 2006 Dec 6.

Interstitial cells of cajal are involved in neurotransmission in the gastrointestinal tract.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Fukui, Eiheiji, Fukui 910-1193, Japan.


Interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) are important cells which coordinate gastrointestinal motility. ICC express Kit receptor tyrosine kinase, and Kit immunohistochemistry reveals ICC morphology and distribution in the gastrointestinal musculature. ICC show a highly branched morphology and form unique networks. Myenteric ICC (ICC-MY) are located at the layer of the myenteric plexus and serve as electrical pacemakers. Intramuscular ICC (ICC-IM) and ICC in the deep muscular plexus (ICC-DMP) are distributed within the muscular layers, and are densely innervated by excitatory and inhibitory enteric motor neurons and in close contact with nerve terminals. Recent studies combined with morphological and functional techniques directly revealed that ICC-IM and ICC-DMP are mediators of enteric motor neuro-transmission. These types of ICC express several receptors for neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine and substance P and show responses to excitatory nerve stimulations. ICC also express receptive mechanisms for nitric oxide, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the gastrointestinal tract. They can respond to nitrergic nerve stimulation by cyclic GMP production. Kit mutant mice lack ICC-IM and show attenuated postsynaptic responses after intrinsic nerve stimulation. These findings indicate the importance for ICC in neurotransmission in the gastrointestinal tract.

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