Nitrergic neuromuscular transmission in the mouse internal anal sphincter is accomplished by multiple pathways and postjunctional effector cells

Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2014 Dec 1;307(11):G1057-72. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00331.2014. Epub 2014 Oct 9.


The effector cells and second messengers participating in nitrergic neuromuscular transmission (NMT) were investigated in the mouse internal anal sphincter (IAS). Protein expression of guanylate cyclase (GCα, GCβ) and cyclic GMP-dependent protein kinase I (cGKI) were examined in cryostat sections with dual-labeling immunohistochemical techniques in PDGFRα(+) cells, interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC), and smooth muscle cells (SMC). Gene expression levels were determined with quantitative PCR of dispersed cells from Pdgfrα(egfp/+), Kit(copGFP/+), and smMHC(Cre-egfp) mice sorted with FACS. The relative gene and protein expression levels of GCα and GCβ were PDGFRα(+) cells > ICC ≫ SMC. In contrast, cGKI gene expression sequence was SMC = ICC > PDGFRα(+) cells whereas cGKI protein expression sequence was neurons > SMC ≫ ICC = PDGFRα(+) cells. The functional role of cGKI was investigated in cGKI(-/-) mice. Relaxation with 8-bromo (8-Br)-cGMP was greatly reduced in cGKI(-/-) mice whereas responses to sodium nitroprusside (SNP) were partially reduced and forskolin responses were unchanged. A nitrergic relaxation occurred with nerve stimulation (NS, 5 Hz, 60 s) in cGKI(+/+) and cGKI(-/-) mice although there was a small reduction in the cGKI(-/-) mouse. N(ω)-nitro-l-arginine (l-NNA) abolished responses during the first 20-30 s of NS in both animals. The GC inhibitor ODQ greatly reduced or abolished SNP and nitrergic NS responses in both animals. These data confirm an essential role for GC in NO-induced relaxation in the IAS. However, the expression of GC and cGKI by all three cell types suggests that each may participate in coordinating muscular responses to NO. The persistence of nitrergic NMT in the cGKI(-/-) mouse suggests the presence of a significant GC-dependent, cGKI-independent pathway.

Keywords: PDGFRα+ cells; cGMP-dependent protein kinase; enteric; gastrointestinal; interstitial cells of Cajal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anal Canal / innervation
  • Anal Canal / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Aorta, Thoracic / metabolism
  • Cyclic GMP-Dependent Protein Kinase Type I / genetics
  • Cyclic GMP-Dependent Protein Kinase Type I / physiology
  • Guanylate Cyclase / metabolism
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Muscle Contraction / drug effects
  • Neuromuscular Junction / physiology*
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology*
  • Second Messenger Systems / drug effects
  • Second Messenger Systems / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Nitric Oxide
  • Cyclic GMP-Dependent Protein Kinase Type I
  • Guanylate Cyclase