Transient catecholaminergic (TC) cells in the vagus nerves and bowel of fetal mice: relationship to the development of enteric neurons

Dev Biol. 1989 Mar;132(1):189-211. doi: 10.1016/0012-1606(89)90217-0.


Catecholaminergic cells are transiently present during development of the fetal murine bowel. These transient catecholaminergic (TC) cells appear at Day E10, but by Day E13 can no longer be detected. In order to evaluate the hypothesis that these cells are the precursors of enteric neurons, we investigated the possibilities that TC cells coexpress neuronal and catecholaminergic markers, that they can be found along the presumed path followed by crest-derived cells migrating to the gut, and that they are proliferating. TC cells were identified immunocytochemically using polyclonal or monoclonal antibodies to tyrosine hydroxylase (TH). At Day E9.5, TH-immunoreactive cells were observed to be present along the wall of the primordial esophagus in lines that extended from the developing nodose ganglia down to the boundary of the stomach. At Day E9.5, TC cells were absent from the remaining foregut. These lines of esophageal TH-immunoreactive cells became continuous with similar cells in the wall of the stomach and duodenum on Day E10. Coincident expression of neurofilament immunoreactivity was seen in all of the esophageal TH-immunoreactive cells present at Day E9.5, as well as in the entire set of esophageal and lower enteric TH-immunoreactive cells present at Day E10 (or later); moreover, at Days E9.5 and E10, all of the neurofilament-immunoreactive cells in the esophagus, stomach, or duodenum were also TH-immunoreactive. In contrast, neurofilament immunoreactivity was not expressed by the endodermally derived pancreatic duct and islet cells, which were also TH-immunoreactive; nor could expression of neurofilament immunoreactivity be detected in the TH-immunoreactive cells of the nodose ganglia. It was not until Day E11 that neurofilament-immunoreactive cells, which did not coexpress TH immunoreactivity (the definitive phenotype of enteric neurons) began to appear in the gut. Vagal axons reached as far distally as the nodose ganglion on Day E9.5, the esophagogastric junction on Day E10, and did not enter the stomach until Day E11. When the vagus nerves reached their level, the TH-immunoreactive cells in the wall of the esophagus came to lie among the nerve fibers. TH-immunoreactive cells are thus present on the pathway ultimately followed by the vagus nerves, but they develop before vagal fibers reach their level. The vagal TH-immunoreactive cells, therefore, are probably not initially migrating on vagal fibers, but appear instead to be overtaken by the descending vagus nerves.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholinesterase / metabolism
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Catecholamines / physiology*
  • Cell Division
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Intermediate Filaments / metabolism
  • Intestines / embryology*
  • Intestines / innervation
  • Mice
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism
  • Vagus Nerve / embryology*


  • Catecholamines
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Acetylcholinesterase
  • Norepinephrine