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Cell Tissue Res. 1995 Apr;280(1):97-111.

c-kit-dependent development of interstitial cells and electrical activity in the murine gastrointestinal tract.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, University of Nevada School of Medicine, Reno 89557.


In vivo injection of a neutralizing, monoclonal antibody (ACK2) to the receptor tyrosine kinase (c-kit) disrupts the normal motility patterns of the mouse small intestine. Immunohistochemical studies showed that cells expressing c-kit-like immunoreactivity (c-kit-LI) decreased in numbers in response to ACK2, but the identity of these cells is unknown. We investigated the identity and development of the cells that express c-kit-LI in the mouse small intestine and colon. Cells in the region of the myenteric plexus and deep muscular plexus of the small intestine and in the subserosa, in the myenteric plexus region, within the circular and longitudinal muscle layers, and along the submucosal surface of the circular muscle in the colon were labeled with ACK2. The distribution of cells that express c-kit-LI was the same as that of interstitial cells (ICs). In whole-mount preparations cells with c-kit-LI were interconnected, forming a network similar to the network formed by cells that stained with methylene blue, which has been used as a marker for ICs in the mouse gastrointestinal tract. Immunocytochemistry verified that ICs were labeled with ACK2. Multiple injections of animals with ACK2 between days 0 and 8 post partum (pp) caused a dramatic reduction in the number of ICs compared to control animals. From an ultrastructural point of view, the proliferation and development appeared to be suppressed in some classes of ICs, while others displayed an altered course of development. Functional studies showed that the decrease in ICs was accompanied by a loss of electrical rhythmicity in the small intestine and reduced neural responses in the small bowel and colon. Morphological experiments showed that c-kit-positive cells are ICs, and physiological evidence reinforced the concept that ICs are involved in generation of rhythmicity and translation of neural inputs in gastrointestinal smooth muscles. Controlling the development of ICs provides a powerful new tool for the investigation of the physiological role of these cells.

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