A profound reduction in colorectal transit time accompanies spinal cord injury (SCI), yet the colonic alterations after SCI have yet to be understood fully. The loss of descending supraspinal input to lumbosacral neural circuits innervating the colon is recognized as one causal mechanism. Remodeling of the colonic enteric nervous system/smooth muscle junction in response to inflammation, however, is recognized as one factor leading to colonic dysmotility in other pathophysiological models. We investigated the alterations to the neuromuscular junction in rats with experimental high-thoracic (T3) SCI. One day to three weeks post-injury, both injured and age-matched controls underwent in vivo experimentation followed by tissue harvest for histological evaluation. Spontaneous colonic contractions were reduced significantly in the proximal and distal colon of T3-SCI rats. Histological evaluation of proximal and distal colon demonstrated significant reductions of colonic mucosal crypt depth and width. Markers of intestinal inflammation were assayed by qRT-PCR. Specifically, Icam1, Ccl2 (MCP-1), and Ccl3 (MIP-1α) mRNA was acutely elevated after T3-SCI. Smooth muscle thickness and collagen content of the colon were increased significantly in T3-SCI rats. Colonic cross sections immunohistochemically processed for the pan-neuronal marker HuC/D displayed a significant decrease in colonic enteric neuron density that became more pronounced at three weeks after injury. Our data suggest that post-SCI inflammation and remodeling of the enteric neuromuscular compartment accompanies SCI. These morphological changes may provoke the diminished colonic motility that occurs during this same period, possibly through the disruption of intrinsic neuromuscular control of the colon.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Neurology