Histochemistry and Cell Biology

, Volume 123, Issue 2, pp 117-130

First online:

Enteric co-innervation of motor endplates in the esophagus: state of the art ten years after

  • Jürgen WörlAffiliated withAnatomy Institute, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg Email author 
  • , Winfried L. NeuhuberAffiliated withAnatomy Institute, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

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The existence of a distinct ganglionated myenteric plexus between the two layers of the striated tunica muscularis of the mammalian esophagus represented an enigma for quite a while. Although an enteric co-innervation of vagally innervated motor endplates in the esophagus has been repeatedly suggested, it was not possible until recently to demonstrate this dual innervation. Ten years ago, we were able to demonstrate that motor endplates in the rat esophagus receive a dual innervation from both vagal nerve fibers originating in the brain stem and from varicose enteric nerve fibers originating in the myenteric plexus. Since then, a considerable amount of data could be raised on enteric co-innervation and its occurrence in a variety of species, including humans, its neurochemistry, spatial relationships on motor endplates, ontogeny, and possible roles during esophageal peristalsis. These data underline the significance of this newly discovered innervation component, although its function is still largely unknown. The aim of this review is to summarize current knowledge about enteric co-innervation of esophageal striated muscle and to provide some hints as to its functional significance.


Esophagus innervation Peristalsis Enteric nervous system Striated muscle Deglutition