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Am J Physiol. 1984 Mar;246(3 Pt 1):G305-15.

Neuromuscular structures in opossum esophagus: role of interstitial cells of Cajal.


The structures of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and body circular muscle (BCM) from opossum were compared as to neural and muscular structures and the structural relations of interstitial cells of Cajal to nerves and muscle cells. Both LES and BCM were densely innervated by nerves with varicosities containing many small agranular vesicles and a few large granular vesicles. These nerves were more closely related structurally to the interstitial cells of Cajal than to smooth muscle cells. More gap junctions were observed between smooth muscle cells and between interstitial cells of Cajal and smooth muscle cells in BCM than in LES. Those between smooth muscle cells were larger in BCM. Complete relaxation of the LES strip by isoproterenol reduced these differences but did not eliminate them. The finding that interstitial cells of Cajal often had gap-junction contacts to smooth muscle and close associations with nerves is consistent with the hypothesis that interstitial cells are intercalated between the nerves and muscles and may mediate nerve responses. These findings also suggest that LES muscle cells may be less well coupled electrically than BCM muscle cells.

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