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Human submucosal neurones regulate intestinal epithelial cell proliferation: evidence from a novel co-culture model


Dr Michel Neunlist or Dr Anne Jarry, Inserm U 539, 1, Alexis Ricordeau, 44035 Nantes, France.
Tel.: ++ 332 40 08 75 15; fax: ++ 332 40 08 75 06; e-mail: or


The role of the human enteric nervous system (ENS) in the control of the intestinal epithelium organization and proliferation is unknown. To address this issue, we developed a novel co-culture model, consisting of human submucosa containing the submucosal plexus and a human colonic epithelial monolayer. After 3 days in basal conditions (i.e. in absence of neuronal activation) epithelium disorganization and proliferation occurred. In contrast, electrical activation of submucosal neurones maintained monolayer organization and decreased cell proliferation. These effects were blocked by tetrodotoxin and a vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) receptor antagonist, and reproduced by VIP. In conclusion, our study suggests that the human ENS is involved in the control of epithelial cell proliferation.