Anatomy and Embryology

, 211:673

Effects of age on sympathetic innervation of the myenteric plexus and gastrointestinal smooth muscle of Fischer 344 rats

  • Robert J. Phillips
  • Brie S. Rhodes
  • Terry L. Powley
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00429-006-0123-z

Cite this article as:
Phillips, R.J., Rhodes, B.S. & Powley, T.L. Anat Embryol (2006) 211: 673. doi:10.1007/s00429-006-0123-z

Abstract

Loss of myenteric neurons with age is well documented, however little is known about age-related changes of the sympathetic innervation of the myenteric plexus and gastrointestinal smooth muscle. The goal of the present study, therefore, was to evaluate the influence of age on the sympathetic innervation of the myenteric plexus throughout the gastrointestinal tract. Ad libitum fed virgin male Fischer 344 rats at 3, 15–16, 24, and 27–28 months of age were sampled. Whole mounts of the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine were processed with an antibody to tyrosine hydroxylase (TH). Additionally, some specimens labeled for TH were stained for NADPH-diaphorase to selectively label the nitrergic subpopulation of neurons in the myenteric plexus. Age-related changes in the TH-positive axons occurred as early as 15–16 months and became more pronounced by 27–28 months. Changes included markedly swollen axons and terminals and a decrease in the intensity of TH staining in some of the surviving processes. Similarly, swollen NADPH-diaphorase-positive axons were found in the myenteric ganglia and secondary plexus between ganglia in the whole mounts of rats 15–28 months of age, but swollen nitrergic axons and dystrophic TH-positive axons were never present in the same ganglion or connective. Therefore, in the aged rat, deterioration of the sympathetic innervation of the myenteric plexus could be one possible mechanism for the age-related decline in gastrointestinal motor function evidenced in the elderly.

Keywords

AgingEnteric nervous systemNitric oxide synthaseTyrosine hydroxylase

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert J. Phillips
    • 1
  • Brie S. Rhodes
    • 1
  • Terry L. Powley
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychological SciencesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA