Ultrastructural identification of noradrenergic axons and their distribution within the enteric plexuses of the guinea-pig small intestine

I. J. Llewellyn-Smith, A. J. Wilson, J. B. Furness, M. Costa, R. A. Rush

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    49 Citations (Scopus)


    Noradrenergic axons in the enteric plexuses of the guinea-pig ileum have been identified at the ultrastructural level using three techniques: the chromaffin reaction, localization of dopamine-β-hydroxylase (DBH) with horseradish peroxidase-conjugated antibody, and in vivo and in vitro loading with 5-hydroxydopamine (5-OHDA). In the myenteric (Auerbach's) plexus from normal ileum all of these methods produced electron-dense deposits in a distinctive population of axonal varicosities that contained many flattened vesicles (usually more than 30% of the total number of vesicles), as well as oval or irregularly shaped vesicles. When noradrenergic axons to the small intestine had degenerated after surgical denervation, no profiles containing vesicles with electron-dense deposits were observed with the chromaffin reaction, DBH localization or loading with 5-OHDA. Pretreatment with 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) substantially reduced the number of noradrenergic axons identified by these three techniques. Axons with many flattened vesicles of similar dimensions but without dense cores were found in myenteric plexus from conventionally fixed intestine. These axons had the same distribution within the ganglia as cytochemically labelled noradrenergic terminals and disappeared after extrinsic denervation. In the normal submucous (Meissner's) plexus, both 5-OHDA loading and the chromaffin reaction produced electron-dense granules in small and large vesicles in some axon terminals. In ganglia labelled by these techniques, reactive terminals contained many small round vesicles and few flattened and large round vesicles as did a population of nonreactive terminals. In axon terminals of submucous plexus labelled with anti-DBH, flattened vesicles were found to be more numerous than with the other treatments. As in the myenteric plexus, all reactive axons disappeared from the submucous plexus after extrinsic denervation. In conventionally processed submucous ganglia, noradrenergic axon profiles could not be distinguished from some non-noradrenergic profiles on the basis of types and proportions of vesicles. In the myenteric plexus noradrenergic axon terminals were seen most often near the edges of ganglia. Noradrenergic varicosities also occurred near nerve cell bodies but were rarely found in internodal strands. In the submucous plexus noradrenergic terminals appeared to be randomly distributed throughout submucous ganglia. No axosomatic synapses formed by noradrenergic axons were found in either plexus, but synapses on nerve processes were occasionally encountered in submucous ganglia.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)331-352
    Number of pages22
    JournalJournal of Neurocytology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 1981


    Dive into the research topics of 'Ultrastructural identification of noradrenergic axons and their distribution within the enteric plexuses of the guinea-pig small intestine'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this