Background Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (MR) are involved in multiple intestinal reflexes. The cellular localization of subtypes of MRs within enteric circuits mediating muscle and mucosal reflexes remains to be demonstrated. This study aimed to localize the three functionally significant subtypes of MRs in human colon. Methods Reverse transcriptase-PCR was used to determine expression levels of muscarinic receptor subtype (MRs) M1Rs, M2Rs and M3Rs in human colon. Indirect immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy was used to localize MRs in cryostat-cut sections of human colon. Sections were double labeled for multiple cellular and neurochemical markers. Western blotting was used to confirm specificity of the muscarinic antisera used. Key Results All three MR subtypes were expressed in human colon. Immunoreactivity (IR) for M2Rs and M3Rs was most abundant in circular and longitudinal muscle. M1R-IR was most abundant on myenteric and submucosal nerve cells, both cholinergic and nitrergic. M3R-IR was also present on populations on myenteric nerve cell bodies. Immunoreactivity for all three receptors was present on nerve fibers in the circular muscle. Conclusions & Inferences In the human colon, subtypes of MRs were present on multiple cell types within the enteric circuits underlying motility, secretory and vasoactive reflexes. The cellular distribution for MRs found in this study agrees with data from functional studies, providing insight into the role MRs have in mediating enteric cholinergic neurotransmission.
- enteric nervous system
- muscarinic receptor