Correlation of electrophysiological and morphological characteristics of enteric neurons in the mouse colon

J Comp Neurol. 2004 Jan 1;468(1):112-24. doi: 10.1002/cne.10948.


We report on the first correlative study of the electrophysiological properties, shapes, and projections of enteric neurons in the mouse. Neurons in the myenteric plexus of the mouse colon were impaled with microelectrodes containing biocytin, their passive and active electrophysiological properties determined, and their responses to activation of synaptic inputs investigated. Biocytin, injected into the neurons from which recordings were made, was converted to an optically dense product and used to determine the shapes of neurons. By electrophysiological properties, almost all neurons belonged to one of two classes, AH neurons or S neurons. AH neurons had a biphasic repolarization of the action potential, and slow afterhyperpolarizing potentials usually followed the action potentials. S neurons had monophasic repolarizations, no slow afterhyperpolarization, and fast excitatory postsynaptic potentials in response to fibre tract stimulation. By shape, neurons were divided into Dogiel type II (28/136 neurons) and uniaxonal neurons. Dogiel type II neurons had large, smooth-surfaced cell bodies and several long processes that supplied branches within myenteric ganglia. All Dogiel type II neurons had AH electrophysiology; conversely, most AH neurons had Dogiel type II morphology. The majority of uniaxonal neurons had lamellar dendrites, i.e., Dogiel type I morphology. They projected to the circular muscle (circular muscle motor neurons), to the longitudinal muscle (longitudinal muscle motor neurons), and to other myenteric ganglia (interneurons) and in some cases could not be traced to target cells. All S neurons were uniaxonal. A small proportion of uniaxonal neurons (3/70) had AH electrophysiology. Fast excitatory synaptic potentials were only recorded from uniaxonal neurons and were in most cases blocked by nicotinic receptor antagonists. A small component of fast excitatory transmission in some neurons was antagonized by the purine receptor antagonist PPADS. Slow excitatory postsynaptic potentials were observed in both AH and S neurons. Slow inhibitory postsynaptic potentials were recorded from S neurons. We conclude that the major classes of neurons are Dogiel type II neurons with AH electrophysiological properties and Dogiel type I neurons with S electrophysiological properties. The S/Dogiel type I neurons include circular muscle motor neurons, longitudinal muscle motor neurons, and interneurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Colon / innervation*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials
  • Interneurons / cytology
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Lysine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Motor Neurons / cytology
  • Motor Neurons / physiology
  • Myenteric Plexus / cytology*
  • Myenteric Plexus / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission*


  • biocytin
  • Lysine