Mechanosensitive enteric neurons in the myenteric plexus of the mouse intestine

Gemma Mazzuoli, Michael Schemann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Background: Within the gut the autonomous enteric nervous system (ENS) is able to sense mechanical stimuli and to trigger gut reflex behaviour. We previously proposed a novel sensory circuit in the ENS which consists of multifunctional rapidly adapting mechanosensitive enteric neurons (RAMEN) in the guinea pig. The aim of this study was to validate this concept by studying its applicability to other species or gut regions. Methodology/Principal Findings: We deformed myenteric ganglia in the mouse small and large intestine and recorded spike discharge using voltage sensitive dye imaging. We also analysed expression of markers hitherto proposed to label mouse sensory myenteric neurons in the ileum (NF145kD) or colon (calretinin). RAMEN constituted 22% and 15% of myenteric neurons per ganglion in the ileum and colon, respectively. They encoded dynamic rather than sustained deformation. In the colon, 7% of mechanosensitive neurons fired throughout the sustained deformation, a behaviour typical for slowly adapting echanosensitive neurons (SAMEN). RAMEN and SAMEN responded directly to mechanical deformation as their response remained unchanged after synaptic blockade in low Ca++/high Mg++. Activity levels of RAMEN increased with the degree of ganglion deformation. Recruitment of more RAMEN with stronger stimuli may suggest low and high threshold RAMEN. The majority of RAMEN were cholinergic but most lacked expression of NF145kD or calretinin. Conclusions/Significance: We showed for the first time that fundamental properties of mechanosensitive enteric neurons, such as firing pattern, encoding of dynamic deformation, cholinergic phenotype and their proportion, are conserved across species and regions. We conclude that RAMEN are important for mechanotransduction in the ENS. They directly encode dynamic changes in force as their firing frequency is proportional to the degree of deformation of the ganglion they reside in. The additional existence of SAMEN in the colon is likely an adaptation to colonic motor patterns which consist of phasic and tonic contractions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere39887
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2 Jul 2012


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