Structure of the tertiary component of the myenteric plexus in the guinea-pig small intestine

I. J. Llewellyn-Smith, M. Costa, J. B. Furness, J. C. Bornstein

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    The tertiary component of the myenteric plexus consists of interlacing fine nerve fibre bundles that run between its principal ganglia and connecting nerve strands. It was revealed by zinc iodide-osmium impregnation and substance P immunohistochemistry at the light-microscope level. The plexus was situated against the inner face of the longitudinal muscle and was present along the length of the small intestine at a density that did not vary markedly from proximal to distal. Nerve bundles did not appear to be present in the longitudinal muscle as judged by light microscopy, although numberous fibre bundles were encountered within the circular muscle layer. At the ultrastructural level, nerve fibre bundles of the tertiary plexus were found in grooves formed by the innermost layer of longitudinal smooth muscle cells. In the distal parts of the small intestine, some of these nerve fibre bundles occasionally penetrated the longitudinal muscle coat. Vesiculated profiles in nerve fibre bundles of the tertiary plexus contained variable proportions of small clear and large granular vesicles; they often approached to within 50-200 nm of the longitudinal smooth muscle cells. Fibroblast-like cells lay between strands of the tertiary plexus and the circular muscle but were never intercalated between nerve fibre varicosities and the longitudinal muscle. These anatomical relationships are consistent with the tertiary plexus being the major site of neurotransmission to the longitudinal muscle of the guinea-pig small intestine.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)509-516
    Number of pages8
    JournalCell & Tissue Research
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 1993


    • Enteric nervous system
    • Guinea-pig
    • Innervation, of intestinal muscle
    • Intestine, small
    • Myenteric plexus
    • Ultrastructure


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