Protein kinases expressed by interstitial cells of Cajal

Histochem Cell Biol. 2004 Jan;121(1):21-30. doi: 10.1007/s00418-003-0602-8. Epub 2003 Dec 5.


Interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) are involved in the generation of electrical rhythmicity of intestinal muscle and in the transduction of neural inputs in the gut. Although the expression of receptors for neurotransmitters and hormones and some second messengers have been investigated in ICC, the protein kinases present in these cells have not been well documented. This study has demonstrated the immunohistochemical localisation of PKA, PKC gamma and PKC theta in ICC that were identified by the known ICC marker, c-Kit, in the guinea-pig gut. Other PKCs, PKC alpha, beta, delta, epsilon, eta, iota and lambda, and Ca(2+)-calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II were not localised in ICC. Double labelling studies were conducted on longitudinal muscle-myenteric plexus and external muscle-myenteric plexus preparations of the oesophagus, stomach (fundus, corpus and antrum), duodenum, distal ileum, caecum, proximal and distal colon, and rectum. The three protein kinases were detected in c-Kit-immunoreactive ICC at the level of the myenteric plexus (IC-MY), in the muscle (IC-IM) and at the level of the deep muscular plexus (IC-DMP) in the small intestine. PKA was found in over 90% of IC-IM in all regions examined, and in over 90% of IC-MY in the gastric body and antrum and throughout the small and large intestines. PKC gamma was in the majority of ICC in the gastric body and antrum and in the small intestine, but was largely absent from ICC in the oesophagus, proximal stomach and large intestine. PKC theta occurred in the majority of ICC in all regions except the rectum. The intensity of staining was greatest for PKA, with PKC gamma giving comparatively weak labelling of ICC. PKA was also detected in myenteric neurons, smooth muscle, macrophages and fibroblast-like cells. PKC gamma labelling occurred in large, multipolar neurons throughout the small and large intestine, as well as in lymph vessels and in capillaries. It is concluded that PKA, PKC gamma and PKC theta are all present in ICC, with the differences in their localisations suggesting specific roles for each in ICC function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / biosynthesis
  • Digestive System / cytology*
  • Digestive System / enzymology*
  • Digestive System / innervation
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Isoenzymes / biosynthesis
  • Male
  • Muscle, Smooth / cytology
  • Muscle, Smooth / enzymology
  • Muscle, Smooth / ultrastructure
  • Myenteric Plexus / cytology
  • Myenteric Plexus / enzymology
  • Myenteric Plexus / ultrastructure
  • Protein Kinase C / biosynthesis
  • Protein Kinases / biosynthesis*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / analysis


  • Isoenzymes
  • Protein Kinases
  • protein kinase C gamma
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • Protein Kinase C