Transcriptome of interstitial cells of Cajal reveals unique and selective gene signatures

PLoS One. 2017 Apr 20;12(4):e0176031. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0176031. eCollection 2017.


Transcriptome-scale data can reveal essential clues into understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms behind specific cellular functions and biological processes. Transcriptomics is a continually growing field of research utilized in biomarker discovery. The transcriptomic profile of interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC), which serve as slow-wave electrical pacemakers for gastrointestinal (GI) smooth muscle, has yet to be uncovered. Using copGFP-labeled ICC mice and flow cytometry, we isolated ICC populations from the murine small intestine and colon and obtained their transcriptomes. In analyzing the transcriptome, we identified a unique set of ICC-restricted markers including transcription factors, epigenetic enzymes/regulators, growth factors, receptors, protein kinases/phosphatases, and ion channels/transporters. This analysis provides new and unique insights into the cellular and biological functions of ICC in GI physiology. Additionally, we constructed an interactive ICC genome browser ( based on the UCSC genome database. To our knowledge, this is the first online resource that provides a comprehensive library of all known genetic transcripts expressed in primary ICC. Our genome browser offers a new perspective into the alternative expression of genes in ICC and provides a valuable reference for future functional studies.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Colon / cytology
  • Colon / metabolism
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Interstitial Cells of Cajal / metabolism*
  • Ion Channels / chemistry
  • Ion Channels / metabolism
  • Jejunum / cytology
  • Jejunum / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Transcriptome*


  • Ion Channels