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Cells Tissues Organs. 2013;197(4):322-32. doi: 10.1159/000346314. Epub 2013 Feb 5.

Ultrastructure of interstitial cells in subserosa of human colon.

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Research Department and Department of Gastroenterology F, Gentofte Hospital, DK–2900 Hellerup, Denmark. juru @


We studied the ultrastructure of interstitial cells in the subserosal/adventitial layer in human colon. An interstitial cell type with an ultrastructure intermediate between fibroblast-like cells (FLC) and interstitial cells of Cajal was identified (IC-SS). IC-SS had thin and flattened branching processes, most densely arranged close to the longitudinal muscle cells. Caveolae, bundles of intermediate filaments and membrane-associated dense bands, often with a patchy basal lamina, were characteristic. Secretory organelles (granular endoplasmic reticulum, smooth endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi, coated vesicles) were prominent. The IC-SS ultrastructure was different from that of FLC in the longitudinal layer, which had no caveolae and fewer intermediate filaments. Peg-and-socket junctions between IC-SS and between IC-SS and muscle cells were present, and IC-SS processes had close, selective appositions to muscle cells. Gap junctions were not observed. Small nerve bundles were abundant, but close contacts (<100 nm) between IC-SS or muscle cells and nerves were inconspicuous. Close appositions between IC-SS and mast cells were present; close relations to macrophages were not observed. The myoid features of IC-SS are thus more pronounced in comparison with FLC of other locations in the gastrointestinal muscle. The organization and ultrastructure may suggest a regulatory nature of IC-SS on the colonic muscle layers.

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