Classes of enteric nerve cells in the guinea-pig small intestine

Anat Rec. 2001 Jan 1;262(1):58-70. doi: 10.1002/1097-0185(20010101)262:1<58::AID-AR1011>3.0.CO;2-V.


The guinea-pig small intestine has been very widely used to study the physiology, pharmacology and morphology of the enteric nervous system. It also provides an ideal, simple mammalian preparation for studying how nerve cells are organised into functional circuits underlying simple behaviours. Many different types of nerve cells are present in the enteric nervous system and they show characteristic combinations of morphological features, projections, biophysical properties, neurochemicals, and receptors. To identify the different functional classes is an important prerequisite for systematic analysis of how the enteric nervous system controls normal gut behaviour. Based on combinations of multiple-labelling immunohistochemistry and retrograde tracing, it has been possible to account quantitatively for all of the neurones in the guinea-pig small intestine. This article summarises that account and updates it in the light of recent data. A total of 18 classes of neurones are currently distinguishable, including primary afferent neurones, motor neurones, interneurones, secretomotor and vasomotor neurones. It is now possible to take an individual nerve cell and use a few carefully chosen criteria to assign it to a functional class. This provides a firm anatomical foundation for the systematic analysis of how the enteric nervous system normally functions and how it goes wrong in various clinically important disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Guinea Pigs / anatomy & histology*
  • Ileum / innervation*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Interneurons / classification
  • Interneurons / metabolism
  • Motor Neurons / classification
  • Motor Neurons / metabolism
  • Myenteric Plexus / cytology*
  • Myenteric Plexus / metabolism
  • Neurons / classification*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons, Afferent / classification
  • Neurons, Afferent / metabolism
  • Neuropeptides / metabolism
  • Submucous Plexus / cytology*
  • Submucous Plexus / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Neuropeptides