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Cell Tissue Res. 1999 Mar;295(3):437-52.

Rapid anterograde and retrograde tracing from mesenteric nerve trunks to the guinea-pig small intestine in vitro.

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Department of Human Physiology and Centre for Neuroscience, The Flinders University of South Australia, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, 5001, South Australia.


A novel technique for rapid anterograde labelling of cut axons in vitro was used to visualise the peripheral branches of mesenteric nerve trunks supplying the guinea-pig small intestine. Biotinamide, dissolved in an artificial intracellular solution, was applied to the cut ends of the mesenteric nerves and the tissue was maintained in organ culture overnight. Labelled nerve fibres were visualised by fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-conjugated streptavidin. Intense staining of nerve fibres and terminal varicosities in the ganglia and internodal strands of the myenteric plexus was achieved up to 15 mm from the application site. Filled fibres formed baskets around some myenteric nerve cell bodies, suggesting target-specific neurotransmission. When combined with multiple-labelling immunohistochemistry for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), calcitonin gene-related protein (CGRP) or choline acetyltransferase (ChAT), most anterogradely labelled nerve fibres, and many pericellular baskets, were found to be TH immunoreactive, indicating their postganglionic sympathetic origin. Double-labelling immunohistochemistry revealed that the postganglionic sympathetic pericellular baskets preferentially surrounded 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT)-handling myenteric neurons. Some biotinamide-filled fibres were CGRP immunoreactive, and are likely to originate from spinal sensory neurons. We describe for the first time many pericellular baskets labelled from the mesenteric nerves which were ChAT immunoreactive. Retrogradely filled intestinofugal nerve cell bodies were also observed, all of which had a single axon arising from a small nerve cell body with short filamentous or lamellar dendrites. Many of these cells were ChAT immunoreactive. This in vitro technique is effective in identifying the fine arrangement of nerve terminals arising from nerve trunks in the periphery.

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