• Neuropeptides;
  • Immunocytochemistry;
  • Myenteric plexus;
  • Intestinal motility;
  • Horse


The pelvic flexure portion of the equine large colon is the proposed location of a pacemaker mechanism. This study was conducted to ascertain whether the distribution of certain putative neurotransmitters differs at the pelvic flexure compared to other sampling sites. Tissue samples were collected from the intestinal tracts of six horses. Serial sections from these samples were reacted with primary antisera specific for substance P, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP), methionine-Enkephalin, and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP).

The regional distribution of immunoreactive neuronal elements was uniform for each of the neuropeptides except VIP. Although neurons exhibiting VIP-like immunoreactivity were abundant throughout the colon, they were somewhat more plentiful near the apex of the pelvic flexure and the left dorsal colon. These neurons may participate in the initiation and propagation of the propulsive/retropulsive contraction waves, which emanate from this location and are believed to lend a sphincter-like capacity to the pelvic flexure. The submucosal plexus was replete with neurons with intense substance P and VIP-like reactivity. Reactive fibers left submucosal ganglia to project to the intestinal mucosa, reflecting a possible secretogogic role for these neurons. This role may be especially important for the horse as a hindgut fermenter. There were abundant methionine-Enkephalin and substance P-like reactive varicosities throughout the myenteric plexus, many of which established a pericellular plexus of varicose fibers. The abundance of these varicosities, which may correlate with a high degree of neuronal integration, did not vary regionally. These data may enhance our understanding of both normal colonic peristalsis and motility disorders caused by a depletion of these neuropeptides. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.