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Keywords:

  • Kit immunohistochemistry;
  • zebrafish;
  • interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC);
  • gastrointestinal tract motility

Abstract

Gastrointestinal (GI) motility results from the coordinated actions of enteric neurons, interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC), and smooth muscle cells. The GI tract of the zebrafish has a cellular anatomy that is essentially similar to humans. Although enteric nerves and smooth muscle cells have been described, it is unknown if ICC are present in the zebrafish. Immunohistochemistry and PCR were used determine expression for the zebrafish Kit orthologue in the zebrafish gastrointestinal tract. Cells displaying Kit-like immunoreactivity were identified in the muscular layers of the adult zebrafish gastrointestinal tract. Two layers of Kit-positive cells were identified, one with multipolar cells located between the longitudinal and circular smooth muscle layers and one with simple bipolar cells located deep in the circular muscle layer. Primers specifically designed to amplify mRNA coding for two zebrafish kit genes, kita and kitb, and two kit ligands, kitla and kitlb, amplified the expected transcript from total RNA isolated from zebrafish GI tissues. The Sparse mutant, a kita null mutant, showed reduced contraction frequency and increased size of the GI tract indicating a functional role for kita. These data establish the presence of a cellular network with Kit-like immunoreactivity in the myenteric plexus region of the zebrafish GI tract, adjacent to enteric neurons. Expression of kita and kitb, and the ligands kitla and kitlb, were verified in the adult GI tract. The anatomical arrangement of the Kit-positive cells strongly suggests that they are ICC. Developmental Dynamics 236:903–911, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.