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Acta Anat (Basel). 1990;139(1):31-44.

Smooth muscle cells, interstitial cells of Cajal and myenteric plexus interrelationships in the human colon.

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  • 1Department of Human Anatomy and Histology, University of Florence, Italy.


The plane between longitudinal and circular muscle of human colon, as revealed on examination with light and electron microscopes, has no clear-cut border. Some groups of smooth muscle cells, obliquely oriented and with features similar to both circular and longitudinal ones--the connecting muscle bundles--run from one muscle layer to another. Other groups of smooth muscle cells, possessing their own specific ultrastructural features--the myenteric muscle sheaths--, make up envelopes of variable thickness around some myenteric ganglia and nerve strands, partially or completely embedding them in one or other muscle layer. Non-neuronal, non-muscular cells (interstitial cells of Cajal, covering cells, fibroblast-like and macrophage-like cells) complicate the texture of the myenteric muscle sheaths, creating an intricate, interconnected cellular network inside them, widespread among nerve bundles and smooth muscle cells; however, only interstitial cells have cell-to-cell junctions also with the smooth muscle cells and nerve endings. These data document the existence in this colonic area of two different types of muscle cell arrangements, one of which, the myenteric muscle sheath, only contains putative pacemaker cells.

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