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Gastroenterology. 1998 Aug;115(2):314-29.

Interstitial cells of Cajal mediate enteric inhibitory neurotransmission in the lower esophageal and pyloric sphincters.

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Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, University of Nevada School of Medicine, Reno, Nevada, USA.



Previous studies have suggested that a specific class of interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) act as mediators in nitrergic inhibitory neurotransmission. The aim of this investigation was to examine the role of intramuscular ICC (IC-IM) in neurotransmission in the murine lower esophageal (LES) and pyloric sphincters (PS).


Immunohistochemistry and electrophysiology were used to study the distribution and role of IC-IM.


The LES and PS contain spindle-shaped IC-IM, which form close relationships with nitric oxide synthase-containing nerve fibers. The PS contains ICC within the myenteric plexus and c-Kit immunopositive cells along the submucosal surface of the circular muscle. IC-IM were absent in the LES and PS of c-kit (W/Wv) mutant mice. Using these mutants, we tested whether IC-IM mediate neural inputs in the LES and PS. Although the distribution of inhibitory nerves was normal in W/Wv animals, NO-dependent inhibitory neurotransmission was reduced. Hyperpolarizations to sodium nitroprusside were also attenuated in W/Wv animals.


The data suggest that IC-IM play an important role in NO-dependent neurotransmission in the LES and PS. IC-IM may be the effectors that transduce NO signals into hyperpolarizing responses. Loss of IC-IM may interfere with relaxations and normal motility in these sphincters.

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