Region-specific remodeling of the enteric nervous system and enteroendocrine cells in the colon of spinal cord injury patients

Sci Rep. 2023 Oct 6;13(1):16902. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-44057-y.


Patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) suffer from major bowel dysfunction, whose exact pathophysiology, particularly the involvement of the enteric nervous system or epithelial dysfunction is poorly understood. Herein, we aimed to characterize the mucosal biopsies of the right and left colon in SCI patients vs controls (CT): (1) remodeling of key enteric neurotransmitters, (2) remodeling of enteroendocrine cells, and (3) mucosal inflammation compared to those in controls. In SCI, mucosal ACh concentration was lower in the right colon as compared to CT, but no change was observed in the left colon, and AChE expression was lower in both the right and left colons than in CT. While the VIP concentration was similar in the right and left colons, VIP mRNA expression was increased in the right colon and decreased in the left colon, in SCI patients as compared to CT. Interestingly, 5-HT concentration was reduced in the left colon but not in the right colon in SCI patients. Moreover, in SCI patients, as compared to CT, SERT mRNA expression was selectively increased in the left colon while TPH1 mRNA expression was increased in the right and left colons. Although mucosal TNFα and IL-1β mRNA expression did not significantly differ between SCI and CT groups, we identified a significant positive correlation between TNFα and IL-1β mRNA expression and left colon transit time in the SCI group. In conclusion, region-specific changes occur in the enteric neurotransmitter, serotonergic, and inflammatory pathways in the colon of SCI patients. The significant correlations between these pathways and clinical parameters in the left colon further set a scientific basis for designing therapeutic targets to improve colonic motor dysfunction in patients.Biobank information: Spinal cord injury patients: PHRC ConstiCAPE-clinical trial NCT02566746. Controls: Anosain-clinical trial NCT03054415 and biobank of the "Institut des Maladies de l'Appareil Digestif (IMAD)" registered under number DC-2008-402.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Colon / pathology
  • Enteric Nervous System* / metabolism
  • Enteroendocrine Cells
  • Humans
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Spinal Cord
  • Spinal Cord Injuries*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / genetics
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • RNA, Messenger

Associated data