Recent advances in enteric neurobiology: mechanosensitive interneurons

Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2007 Nov;19(11):869-78. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2982.2007.01019.x.


Until recently, it was generally assumed that the only intrinsic sensory neuron, or primary afferent neuron, in the gut was the after-hyperpolarizing AH/Type II neuron. AH neurons excited by local chemical and mechanical stimulation of the mucosa appear to be necessary for activating the peristaltic reflex (oral excitation and anal inhibition of the muscle layers) and anally propagating ring like contractions (peristaltic waves) that depend upon smooth muscle tone. However, our recent findings in the guinea-pig distal colon suggest that different neurochemical classes of interneuron in the colon are also mechanosensitive in that they respond directly to changes in muscle length, rather than muscle tone or tension. These interneurons have electrophysiological properties consistent with myenteric S-neurons. Ascending and descending interneurons respond directly to circumferential stretch by generating an ongoing polarized peristaltic reflex activity (oral excitatory and anal inhibitory junction potentials) in the muscle for as long as the stimulus is maintained. Some descending (nitric oxide synthase +ve) interneurons, on the other hand, appear to respond directly to longitudinal stretch and are involved in accommodation and slow transit of faecal pellets down the colon. This review will present recent evidence that suggests some myenteric S interneurons, in addition to AH neurons, behave as intrinsic sensory neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colon / innervation
  • Colon / physiology
  • Electrophysiology
  • Enteric Nervous System / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / innervation*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Peristalsis / physiology