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Papers of the Week

Papers: 28 Mar 2020 - 3 Apr 2020

Animal Studies

2020 Mar 25

Cell Tissue Res

Sensory nerve endings arising from single spinal afferent neurons that innervate both circular muscle and myenteric ganglia in mouse colon: colon-brain axis.


There is considerable interest in understanding how contents within the gut wall (including microbiome) can activate sensory nerve endings in the gut that project to the central nervous system. However, we have only recently begun to understand the location and characteristics of extrinsic spinal afferent nerve endings that innervate the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Our aim is to identify the nerve endings in the mouse distal colon that arise from single spinal afferent neurons. C57BL/6 mice were anaesthetised and single dorsal root ganglia (DRG) between lumbosacral L6-S1 were injected with dextran biotin. Mice recovered for 7 days. Animals were then euthanized and whole colons removed, fixed and stained for calcitonin-gene-related-peptide (CGRP). Single spinal afferent nerve axons were identified entering the distal colon that ramified along many rows of myenteric ganglia, often giving rise to varicose nerve endings. These same axons bifurcated in the circular muscle giving rise to 4-5 groups of branching-type intramuscular endings, where each group of endings was separated by ~ 370 μm in the rostro-caudal axis and projected 1.2 mm around the circumference. As spinal afferent axons bifurcated, their axons often showed dramatic reductions in diameter. Here, we identified in the distal colon, the characteristics of nerve endings that arise from single colorectal-projecting axons with cell bodies in DRG. These findings suggest that a population of sensory neurons in DRG can potentially detect sensory stimuli simultaneously via different morphological types of endings that lie in both colonic smooth muscle and myenteric ganglia.