The origin of segmentation motor activity in the intestine

Nat Commun. 2014;5:3326. doi: 10.1038/ncomms4326.


The segmentation motor activity of the gut that facilitates absorption of nutrients was first described in the late 19th century, but the fundamental mechanisms underlying it remain poorly understood. The dominant theory suggests alternate excitation and inhibition from the enteric nervous system. Here we demonstrate that typical segmentation can occur after total nerve blockade. The segmentation motor pattern emerges when the amplitude of the dominant pacemaker, the slow wave generated by interstitial cells of Cajal associated with the myenteric plexus (ICC-MP), is modulated by the phase of induced lower frequency rhythmic transient depolarizations, generated by ICC associated with the deep muscular plexus (ICC-DMP), resulting in a waxing and waning of the amplitude of the slow wave and a rhythmic checkered pattern of segmentation motor activity. Phase-amplitude modulation of the slow waves points to an underlying system of coupled nonlinear oscillators originating in the networks of ICC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Enteric Nervous System / metabolism
  • Enteric Nervous System / physiology
  • Female
  • Interstitial Cells of Cajal / metabolism
  • Interstitial Cells of Cajal / physiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestines / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Myenteric Plexus / metabolism
  • Myenteric Plexus / physiology