Journal of Neuro-Visceral Relations

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 224–240 | Cite as

Cholinergic mechanisms in the gastro-intestinal tract

  • Margaret Gunn


A study of the cytological distribution of cholinesterase reveals, in addition to details of motor and sensory mechanisms, the presence of a muscular cholinergic system.

In the longitudinal muscle of the small intestine only, the non-specific cholinesterase is present in transverse striations which are in opposition in adjacent fibres. In the circular muscle of the small intestine and both muscle layers of the stomach the non-specific enzyme is in the “interstitial cells of Cajal”, not in the muscle fibres.

A theory that this enzyme is concerned in some automatic (non-nervous) movements of the gut has been formulated.

It is concluded that the interstitial cell plexus forms the end apparatus of the motor autonomic nervous system.

Specific cholinesterase is found concentrated in the varicose endings of convoluted fibres in the longitudinal muscle of the small intestine and circular muscle of the rectum. These are deduced to be sensory endings.

In the stomach, Meissner's inner fibro-cellular plexus (seeGunn, 1968), is absent. The cholinergic fibres in the submucosa have been deduced to be sensory fibres of cerebrospinal origin. The coiled fibre bundles show high concentrations of specific cholinesterase as they pass through the muscularis mucosae and this appears to constitute a widespread sensory system in this muscle layer.


Small Intestine Cholinesterase Muscle Layer Interstitial Cell Longitudinal Muscle 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1971

Authors and Affiliations

  • Margaret Gunn
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyThe UniversitySheffieldEngland

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