Quantitative changes of enteric glia (EGC) have been implicated in gastrointestinal disorders. To facilitate future studies of EGC in human pathology, we aimed to characterize thoroughly glial markers in the human enteric nervous system (ENS) and to compare EGC in man and guinea pig. Whole-mount preparations of the enteric nerve plexuses from human and guinea pig ileum and colon were labeled with antibodies against S100b, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), and p75NGFR and the transcription factors Sox8/9/10 and neuronally counterstained. Abundant immunoreactivity (IR) for S100b, GFAP, p75NGFR, and Sox8/9/10 was detected in EGC of all studied regions. Although the cytoplasmatic staining pattern of most markers did not permit glial quantification, the nuclear localization of Sox8/9/10-IR allowed to identify and count all EGC individually. In both man and guinea pig, myenteric ganglia were larger and contained more EGC and neurons than submucous ganglia. Furthermore, there were more EGC in the human than in the guinea pig myenteric plexus (MP), glial density was consistently higher in the human ENS, and the glia index (glia:neuron ratio) ranged from 1.3 to 1.9 and from 5.9 to 7.0 in the human submucous plexus (SMP) and MP, respectively, whereas, in guinea pig, the glia index was 0.8-1.0 in the SMP and 1.7 in the MP. The glia index was the most robust quantitative descriptor within one species. This is a comprehensive set of quantitative EGC measures in man and guinea pig that provides a basis for pathological assessment of glial proliferation and/or degeneration in the diseased gut.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.