Development of interstitial cells of Cajal in a full-term infant without an enteric nervous system

Gastroenterology. 2001 Feb;120(2):561-7. doi: 10.1053/gast.2001.21200.


The relationship between the development of the enteric nervous system and interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) in the human small intestine was investigated in a full-term infant who presented with intestinal pseudo-obstruction. Immunohistochemistry revealed absence of enteric nerves and ganglia but abundant c-Kit immunoreactivity associated with Auerbach's plexus (ICC-AP). However, c-Kit immunoreactivity associated with the deep muscular plexus (ICC-DMP) and intermuscular ICC was absent. Electron microscopy showed ICC-AP with a normal ultrastructure; ICC-DMP were seen but were severely injured, suggesting degeneration. In vitro recording of intestinal muscle showed slow wave activity as well as response to cholinergic stimulation. Fluoroscopic examination of the small bowel showed a variety of motor patterns, including rhythmic, propagating contractions. In conclusion, total absence of enteric nerves was associated with absence of normal ICC-DMP. However, a normal musculature, including a network of ICC-AP, allowed for generation of rhythmic, propagating contractile activity, suggesting the presence of functional motor activity.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Biological Clocks / physiology
  • Enteric Nervous System / abnormalities*
  • Enteric Nervous System / ultrastructure
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Gastric Emptying / physiology
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestine, Small* / cytology
  • Intestine, Small* / embryology
  • Intestine, Small* / innervation
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Muscle, Smooth / innervation
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiology
  • Muscle, Smooth / ultrastructure