The distribution patterns of peptide-containing neurons and endocrine cells were mapped in sections of oesophagus, stomach, small intestine and large intestine of the rabbit, by use of standard immunohistochemical techniques. Whole mounts of separated layers of ileum were similarly examined. Antibodies raised against vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), substance P (SP), somatostatin (SOM), neuropeptide Y (NPY), enkephalins (ENK) and gastrin-releasing peptide (GRP) were used, and for each of these antisera distinct populations of immunoreactive (IR) nerve fibres were observed. Endocrine cells were labelled by the SP, SOM or NPY antisera in some regions. VIP-IR nerve fibres were common in each layer throughout the gastrointestinal tract. With the exception of the oesophagus, GRP-IR nerve fibres also occurred in each layer of the gastrointestinal tract; they formed a particularly rich network in the mucosa of the stomach and small intestine. Fewer nerve fibres containing NPY-IR or SOM-IR were seen in all areas. SOM-IR nerve fibres were very scarce in the circular and longitudinal muscle layers of each area and were absent from the gastric mucosa. The SP-IR innervation of the external musculature and ganglionated plexuses in most regions was rather extensive, whereas the mucosa was only very sparsely innervated. ENK-IR nerve fibres were extremely rare or absent from the mucosa of all areas, although immunoreactive nerve fibres were found in other layers. These studies illustrate the differences in distribution patterns of peptide-containing nerve fibres and endocrine cells along the gastrointestinal tract of the rabbit and also show that there are some marked differences in these patterns, in comparison with other mammalian species.
- Enteric nervous system
- Enteroendocrine cells