Myenteric neurons of the rat descending colon: Electrophysiological and correlated morphological properties

K. N. Browning, G. M. Lees

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Conventional intracellular electrophysiological recordings were made from 502 myenteric neurons of the rat descending colon. Myenteric neurons could be classified into three groups on the basis of distinct electrophysiological properties. The first group of neurons (51% of all neurons) fired tetrodotoxin-sensitive action potentials in response to direct somal depolarization and the majority (98%) of this group generated fast cholinergic excitatory synaptic potentials in response to focal stimulation and were therefore designated S/Type 1 neurons The second group (40%) of neurons fired tetrodotoxin-insensitive action potentials which were followed by long-lasting membrane afterhyperpolarizations, hence were termed AH neurons. These neurons did not receive fast cholinergic synaptic inputs but ionophoretic application of acetylcholine induced rapid nicotinic cholinoceptor-mediated depolarizations. The final group of neurons (9%), named Type 3 neurons, received fast cholinergic synaptic inputs but could never be made to fire action potentials. Rundown in amplitude of successive first excitatory synaptic potentials evoked by a short train of presynaptic nerve stimuli was observed in only a small proportion of neurons (8/37; 22%) with the majority of neurons (29/37; 78%) showing no such decrease in amplitude, even at frequencies of stimulation as high as 10 Hz. Superfusion of 5 hydroxytryptamine could induce both an inhibition and a facilitation of cholinergic fast synaptic transmission. Evidence was adduced that these presynaptic inhibitory and facilitatory actions appeared to be mediated via 5-hydroxytryptamine(1A) and 5-hydroxytryptamine4 receptors, respectively. Muscarinic slow excitatory synaptic potentials were not detected (9/9 neurons tested) and non-cholinergic slow excitatory synaptic potentials following repetitive focal presynaptic nerve stimulation were observed in only 39/502 (8%) of all neurons. In those neurons in which a demonstrable change in membrane input resistance was detectable, slow excitatory potentials were accompanied by an increased input resistance. In addition, in a small subset (4%) of S/Type 1 neurons, slow membrane hyperpolarizations accompanied by an increased membrane input resistance were observed following tetanic presynaptic nerve stimulation. Superfusion of 5-hydroxytryptamine induced both membrane depolarizations and hyperpolarizations. Membrane depolarizations were observed in 40% of all neuronal types (34% of S/Type 1 neurons. 58% of AH neurons and 11% of Type 3 neurons) and were accompanied by an increased membrane input resistance and occasionally, in S/Type 1 and AH neurons, by anodal break excitation or spontaneous action potential firing. Membrane hyperpolarizations were observed in S/Type 1 neurons (5%) only and were accompanied, unexpectedly, by an increased membrane input resistance. In those neurons that responded both to application of 5-hydroxytryptamine and tetanic presynaptic nerve stimulation, 5-hydroxytryptamine always mimicked the slow synaptic response indicating that 5-hydroxytryptamine may function as a slow synaptic mediator in some myenteric neurons. Myenteric neurons identified by intracellular injection of the neuronal marker Neurobiotin(TM) were found to conform to the morphological classification schemes proposed for myenteric neurons of the guinea-pig and porcine intestine, that is, Dogiel Types I and II and Stach Type IV neurons were present. Simultaneous electrophysiological recording and intracellular staining techniques revealed that a correlation existed between the electrophysiological and morphological properties of myenteric neurons of the rat colon, with electrophysiological classified S/Type 1 neurons having Dogiel Type 1 morphologies (95/108 neurons; 88%) and electrophysiological classified AH neurons having Dogiel Type II morphologies (87/94 neurons; 93%). Myenteric neurons of the rat descending colon appeared to share many electrophysiological properties with neurons of the rat duodenum, as well as with the more commonly studied guinea-pig enteric neurons. The same electrophysiological types of neurons were present, although in detail their synaptic properties appeared to differ. In addition, as 5-hydroxytryptamine acted both presynaptically to inhibit or facilitate fast synaptic transmission and postsynaptically to produce a membrane depolarization or hyperpolarization, the overall effect of 5-hydroxytryptamine may vary throughout the intestinal tract, subject to the presence or absence of appropriate receptors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1029-1047
Number of pages19
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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