, Volume 336, Issue 2, pp 179-189
Date: 27 Mar 2009

Identification of neuron types in the submucosal ganglia of the mouse ileum

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The continuing and even expanding use of genetically modified mice to investigate the normal physiology and development of the enteric nervous system and for the study of pathophysiology in mouse models emphasises the need to identify all the neuron types and their functional roles in mice. An investigation that chemically and morphologically defined all the major neuron types with cell bodies in myenteric ganglia of the mouse small intestine was recently completed. The present study was aimed at the submucosal ganglia, with the purpose of similarly identifying the major neuron types with cell bodies in these ganglia. We found that the submucosal neurons could be divided into three major groups: neurons with vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) immunoreactivity (51% of neurons), neurons with choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) immunoreactivity (41% of neurons) and neurons that expressed neither of these markers. Most VIP neurons contained neuropeptide Y (NPY) and about 40% were immunoreactive for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH); 22% of all submucosal neurons were TH/VIP. VIP-immunoreactive nerve terminals in the mucosa were weakly immunoreactive for TH but separate populations of TH- and VIP-immunoreactive axons innervated the arterioles in the submucosa. Of the ChAT neurons, about half were immunoreactive for both somatostatin and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). Calretinin immunoreactivity occurred in over 90% of neurons, including the VIP neurons. The submucosal ganglia and submucosal arterioles were innervated by sympathetic noradrenergic neurons that were immunoreactive for TH and NPY; no VIP and few calretinin fibres innervated submucosal neurons. We conclude that the submucosal ganglia contain cell bodies of VIP/NPY/TH/calretinin non-cholinergic secretomotor neurons, VIP/NPY/calretinin vasodilator neurons, ChAT/CGRP/somatostatin/calretinin cholinergic secretomotor neurons and small populations of cholinergic and non-cholinergic neurons whose targets have yet to be identified. No evidence for the presence of type-II putative intrinsic primary afferent neurons was found.

This work was supported by a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (grant no. 400020) and an Australian Research Council international linkage grant (no. LZ0882269) for collaboration between the Melbourne and Bologna laboratories.