Morphological evidence for novel enteric neuronal circuitry in guinea pig distal colon

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14 Citations (Scopus)


The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is unique compared to all other internal organs; it is the only organ with its own nervous system and its own population of intrinsic sensory neurons, known as intrinsic primary afferent neurons (IPANs). How these IPANs form neuronal circuits with other functional classes of neurons in the enteric nervous system (ENS) is incompletely understood. We used a combination of light microscopy, immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy to examine the topographical distribution of specific classes of neurons in the myenteric plexus of guinea-pig colon, including putative IPANs, with other classes of enteric neurons. These findings were based on immunoreactivity to the neuronal markers, calbindin, calretinin and nitric oxide synthase. We then correlated the varicose outputs formed by putative IPANs with subclasses of excitatory interneurons and motor neurons. We revealed that calbindin-immunoreactive varicosities form specialized structures resembling ‘baskets’ within the majority of myenteric ganglia, which were arranged in clusters around calretinin-immunoreactive neurons. These calbindin baskets directly arose from projections of putative IPANs and represent morphological evidence of preferential input from sensory neurons directly to a select group of calretinin neurons. Our findings uncovered that these neurons are likely to be ascending excitatory interneurons and excitatory motor neurons. Our study reveals for the first time in the colon, a novel enteric neural circuit, whereby calbindin-immunoreactive putative sensory neurons form specialized varicose structures that likely direct synaptic outputs to excitatory interneurons and motor neurons. This circuit likely forms the basis of polarized neuronal pathways underlying motility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1662-1672
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • calbindin
  • calretinin
  • colon
  • enteric nervous system
  • Guinea-pig
  • immunohistochemistry
  • nitric oxide synthase
  • primary afferent neurons


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