Anatomy and Embryology

, Volume 208, Issue 1, pp 33–41 | Cite as

Embryonic development of the ganglion plexuses and the concentric layer structure of human gut: a topographical study

  • M. Fu
  • P. K. H. Tam
  • M. H. Sham
  • V. C. H. LuiEmail author
Original Article


In this study, we performed a detailed topographical study on the development of ganglion plexuses and the smooth muscle layers of human embryonic and fetal gut. Neuron and glia differentiation was investigated with anti-PGP9.5 and anti-S100 antibodies respectively. The differentiation of smooth muscle and interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) was studied with anti-smooth muscle α-actin and anti-C-Kit antibodies respectively. By week 7, rostro-caudal neural crest cell (NCC) colonization of the gut was complete, and NCCs have differentiated into neurons and glia. At the foregut, neurons and glia were aggregated into ganglion plexus in the myenteric region, and the longitudinal and circular muscle layers have started to differentiate; however, neurons and glia were not found in the submucosa. At the hindgut, neurons and glia were dispersed within the mesenchyme. Myenteric plexus, longitudinal and circular muscle layers formed along the entire gut by week 9. Scattered and individual neurons and glia, and small ganglion plexuses were detected in the foregut and midgut submucosa by week 12. Ganglion plexus was not seen in the hindgut submucosa until week 14. Muscularis mucosae was formed at the foregut and midgut by week 12 but was only discernible at the hindgut 2 weeks later. As the gut wall developed, ganglion plexus increased in size with more neurons and glia, and the formation of intra-plexus nerve fascicle. ICCs were localized in the ganglion plexus as early as week 7. ICCs were initially dispersed in the plexus and were preferentially localized at the periphery of the plexus by week 20. The specification of the annular layers of human embryonic and fetal gut follows a strict spatio-temporal pattern in a rostro-caudal and centripetal manner suggesting that interaction between (1) homotypic and/or heterotypic cells; and (2) cells and the extracellular matrix is critical for the embryonic development of the gut mesenchyme and the enteric nervous system.


Enteric nervous system Neural crest Smooth muscle Human embryos Gastrointestinal tract 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Fu
    • 1
  • P. K. H. Tam
    • 1
  • M. H. Sham
    • 2
  • V. C. H. Lui
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Surgery, University of Hong Kong Medical CenterQueen Mary HospitalSAR China
  2. 2.Department of BiochemistryUniversity of Hong KongSAR China

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