Serotonin neurons are descending interneurons in the myenteric plexus of the guinea pig small intestine. Preembedding single- and double-label immunocytochemistries at the ultrastructural level were used to identify the targets of these serotonin interneurons.
Serial ultrathin sections were taken through a myenteric ganglion that had been processed for serotonin immunocytochemistry. The ganglion contained the cell bodies of 69 neurons, including 2 serotonin neurons and 6 neurons with the ultrastructural features of Dogiel type II cells. For each cell body in the ganglion, the number of serotonin inputs (synapses and close contacts) was determined. About 50% of the cell bodies did not receive any serotonin inputs. The most abundant serotonin terminals were related to two targets: other serotonin descending interneurons and a population of neurons with Dogiel type I morphology, but whose neurochemistry and function is unknown. The serotonin inputs to the serotonin cell bodies were located predominantly on the lamellar dendrites. Each of the Dogiel type II neurons received 3 or fewer serotonin inputs, and none of the serotonin inputs to Dogiel type II neurons formed a synapse. Overall, about 40% of the serotonin inputs formed synapses. The serotonin inputs to neurons that received many serotonin inputs were more likely to show synaptic specializations than serotonin inputs to neurons that received few serotonin inputs.
Inhibitory motor neurons contain nitric oxide synthase (NOS). At the light microscope level, serotonin nerve fibers do not form dense pericellular baskets around NOS cell bodies. To determine whether there are serotonin input to NOS neurons, serial ultrathin sections were taken through a myenteric ganglion that had been processed for preembedding double-label immunocytochemistry, in which the NOS neurons were labeled with peroxidase-diaminobenzidine and the serotonin neurons with silver-intensified 1 nm gold. Only 1 out of 9 NOS cells examined in serial section received more than 5 serotonin inputs. The results suggest that, in the guinea pig small intestine, the serotonin descending interneurons are not an essential element of the descending inhibitory reflex. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.