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Neuroscience. 1984 Aug;12(4):1293-311.

Regionally defective colonization of the terminal bowel by the precursors of enteric neurons in lethal spotted mutant mice.


In order to gain insight into the process of colonization of the bowel by the neural crest-derived precursors of enteric neurons, the development of the enteric nervous system was examined in lethal spotted mutant mice, a strain in which a segment of bowel is congenitally aganglionic. In addition, nerve fibers within the ganglionic and aganglionic zones of the gut of adult mutant mice were investigated with respect to their content of acetylcholinesterase, immunoreactive substance P, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide and serotonin, and their ability to take up [3H]serotonin. In both the fetal gut of developing mutant mice and in the mature bowel of adult animals abnormalities were limited to the terminal 2 mm of colon. The enteric nervous system in the proximal alimentary tract was indistinguishable from that of control animals for all of the parameters examined. In the terminal bowel, the normal plexiform pattern of the innervation and ganglion cell bodies were replaced by a coarse reticulum of nerve fibers that stained for acetylcholineserase and were continuous with extrinsic nerves running between the colon and the pelvic plexus. These coarse nerve bundles contained greatly reduced numbers of fibers that displayed substance P- and vasoactive intestinal polypeptide-like immunoreactivity, but a serotonergic innervation was totally missing from the aganglionic bowel. During development, acetylcholineserase and uptake of [3H]serotonin appeared in neural elements in the forgut of mutant mice on the 12th day of embryonic life (E12), about the same time these markers appeared in the forgut in normal mice. By day E14, neurons expressing one or the other marker were recognizable as far distally as about 2 mm from the anus. The appearance of neurons in segments of gut grown for 2 weeks as explants in culture was used as an assay for the presence of neuronal progenitor cells in the segments of fetal bowel at the time of explantation. Both acetylcholinesterase activity and uptake of [3H]serotonin developed in neurons in vitro in explants of proximal bowel between days E10 and E17. At all times, however, the terminal 2 mm of mutant but not normal fetal gut gave rise to aneuronal cultures. In some mutant mice rare, small, ectopically-situated pelvic ganglia were found just outside aganglionic segments of fetal colon. Uptake of [3H]serotonin, normally a marker for intrinsic enteric neurites, was found in these ganglia. The experiments support the hypothesis that the terminal 2 mm of the gut in lethal spotted mutant mice is intrinsically abnormal and thus cannot be colonized by the precursors of enteric neurons.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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