Background Intramuscular interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC-IM) have been shown to participate in nitrergic neuromuscular transmission (NMT) in various regions of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, but their role in the internal anal sphincter (IAS) is still uncertain. Contractile studies of the IAS in the W/Wv mouse (a model in which ICC-IM numbers are markedly reduced) have reported that nitrergic NMT persists and that ICC-IM are not required. However, neither the changes in electrical events underlying NMT nor the contributions of other non-nitrergic neural pathways have been examined in this model.
Methods The role of ICC-IM in NMT was examined by recording the contractile and electrical events associated with electrical field stimulation (EFS) of motor neurons in the IAS of wildtype and W/Wv mice. Nitrergic, purinergic, and cholinergic components were identified using inhibitors of these pathways.
Key Results Under NANC conditions, purinergic and nitrergic pathways both contribute to EFS-induced inhibitory junction potentials (IJPs) and relaxation. Purinergic IJPs and relaxation were intact in the W/Wv mouse IAS, whereas nitrergic IJPs were reduced by 50–60% while relaxation persisted. In the presence of L-NNA (NOS inhibitor) and MRS2500 (P2Y1 receptor antagonist), EFS gave rise to cholinergic depolarization and contractions that were abolished by atropine. Cholinergic depolarization was absent in the W/Wv mouse IAS while contraction persisted.
Conclusions & Inferences ICC-IM significantly contributes to the electrical events underlying nitrergic and cholinergic NMT, whereas contractile events persist in the absence of ICC-IM. The purinergic inhibitory neural pathway appears to be independent of ICC-IM.