Background We previously showed that colonic mucosal biopsy supernatants from patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) activate neurons of the human submucous plexus, an area with densely packed immune cells. Based on the concept that mucosa-nerve signaling is altered in IBS, we tested in this study whether the nerve sensitizing effect of IBS mucosal biopsy supernatants is more prominent in the submucous than myenteric plexus.
Methods Fast neuroimaging with the voltage-sensitive dye Di-8-ANEPPS was used to record activity of guinea-pig submucous and myenteric neurons after application of constipation (C)- and diarrhea (D)-IBS supernatants (three each) and four supernatants from healthy control subjects. Results are based on recordings from 4731 neurons.
Key Results Control supernatants did not evoke significant responses in submucous or myenteric neurons. In contrast, all IBS supernatants evoked a significant spike discharge (median 3.6 Hz) in 46% of submucous neurons. This activation was significantly stronger than in the myenteric plexus where even twice the amount of supernatants evoked a lower spike frequency (median 2.1 Hz) in only 8.5% of neurons. Pharmacological studies revealed serotonin, histamine, and proteases as components mediating neuronal activation. Individual application of these components revealed that only serotonin evoked a significantly stronger activation of submucous compared with myenteric neurons.
Conclusions & Inferences Direct neuronal activation by IBS mucosal biopsy supernatants is primarily a feature of submucous rather than myenteric neurons. This is associated with a stronger excitation of submucous neurons by serotonin. The plexus-specific effects support the concept that altered mucosa-nerve signaling underlies disturbances in IBS.