Neural motor complexes propagate continuously along the full length of mouse small intestine and colon

Marcello Costa, Timothy James Hibberd, Lauren J. Keightley, Lukasz Wiklendt, John W. Arkwright, Philip G. Dinning, Simon J.H. Brookes, Nick J. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Cyclical propagating waves of muscle contraction have been recorded in isolated small intestine or colon, referred to here as motor complexes (MCs). Small intestinal and colonic MCs are neurogenic, occur at similar frequencies, and propagate orally or aborally. Whether they can be coordinated between the different gut regions is unclear. Motor behavior of whole length mouse intestines, from duodenum to terminal rectum, was recorded by intraluminal multisensor catheter. Small intestinal MCs were recorded in 27/30 preparations, and colonic MCs were recorded in all preparations (n = 30) with similar frequencies (0.54 ± 0.03 and 0.58 ± 0.02 counts/min, respectively). MCs propagated across the ileo-colonic junction in 10/30 preparations, forming "full intestine"MCs. The cholinesterase inhibitor physostigmine increased the probability of a full intestine MC but had no significant effect on frequency, speed, or direction. Nitric oxide synthesis blockade by N±-nitro-L-arginine, after physostigmine, increased MC frequency in small intestine only. Hyoscineresistant MCs were recorded in the colon but not small intestine (n = 5). All MCs were abolished by hexamethonium (n = 18) or tetrodotoxin (n = 2). The enteric neural mechanism required for motor complexes is present along the full length of both the small and large intestine. In some cases, colonic MCs can be initiated in the distal colon and propagate through the ileo-colonic junction, all the way to duodenum. In conclusion, the ileo-colonic junction provides functional neural continuity for propagating motor activity that originates in the small or large intestine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)G99-G108
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology: Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • colon
  • motor complex
  • mouse
  • neurogenic
  • small intestine


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