Types of Neurons in the Human Colonic Myenteric Plexus Identified by Multilayer Immunohistochemical Coding

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Background and Aims: Gut functions including motility, secretion, and blood flow are largely controlled by the enteric nervous system. Characterizing the different classes of enteric neurons in the human gut is an important step to understand how its circuitry is organized and how it is affected by disease. 

Methods: Using multiplexed immunohistochemistry, 12 discriminating antisera were applied to distinguish different classes of myenteric neurons in the human colon (2596 neurons, 12 patients) according to their chemical coding. All antisera were applied to every neuron, in multiple layers, separated by elutions. 

Results: A total of 164 combinations of immunohistochemical markers were present among the 2596 neurons, which could be divided into 20 classes, with statistical validation. Putative functions were ascribed for 4 classes of putative excitatory motor neurons (EMN1–4), 4 inhibitory motor neurons (IMN1–4), 3 ascending interneurons (AIN1–3), 6 descending interneurons (DIN1–6), 2 classes of multiaxonal sensory neurons (SN1–2), and a small, miscellaneous group (1.8% of total). Soma-dendritic morphology was analyzed, revealing 5 common shapes distributed differentially between the 20 classes. Distinctive baskets of axonal varicosities surrounded 45% of myenteric nerve cell bodies and were associated with close appositions, suggesting possible connectivity. Baskets of cholinergic terminals and several other types of baskets selectively targeted ascending interneurons and excitatory motor neurons but were significantly sparser around inhibitory motor neurons. 

Conclusions: Using a simple immunohistochemical method, human myenteric neurons were shown to comprise multiple classes based on chemical coding and morphology and dense clusters of axonal varicosities were selectively associated with some classes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-605
Number of pages33
Issue number4
Early online date22 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Antisera
  • Classes
  • Enteric Nervous System
  • Immunofluorescence


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