Growth-associated protein-43 and protein gene-product 9.5 innervation in human pancreas: changes in chronic pancreatitis

Neuroscience. 1994 Nov;63(1):249-66. doi: 10.1016/0306-4522(94)90020-5.


Growth-associated protein-43, an established marker of neuronal plasticity during development and in injury, was used to characterize innervation in the normal human pancreas and changes in chronic alcohol-induced pancreatitis by using light microscopic immunocytochemistry and computer-assisted image analysis. Immunostaining for the pan-neuronal marker protein gene-product 9.5 served as a reference for the characterization of total innervation in both groups. In normal human pancreas, strong protein gene-product 9.5 immunostaining revealed all nerve fibres in nerve trunks, all neuronal cell bodies and the entire parenchymal innervation. In contrast, growth-associated protein-43 immunoreactivity was restricted to a few nerve fibres in interlobular nerve trunks and to fine varicose nerve fibres supplying the parenchyma, blood vessels, pancreatic ducts and intrinsic ganglia. In cell bodies of intrinsic neurons, growth-associated protein-43 immunoreactivity was absent or extremely faint. In chronic pancreatitis, the protein gene-product 9.5 innervation exhibited region-specific changes. In areas with reduced parenchyma, the protein gene-product 9.5 innervation was sparse. In fibrotic regions, which are characteristic for advanced stages of chronic pancreatitis, enlarged nerve trunks showing neuroma-like formations were heavily stained for protein gene-product 9.5. In fibrotic tissue, protein gene-product 9.5-containing nerve fibres were extremely rare. The growth-associated protein-43 innervation in chronic pancreatitis was characterized by a dramatic increase, which was most pronounced in the enlarged nerve trunks. Such nerve trunks were frequently surrounded by infiltrates of immune cells, which in some cases formed follicle-like structures. Digital image analysis of adjacent sections and double fluorescence immunocytochemistry revealed that growth-associated protein-43 immunoreactivity was present in the vast majority of protein gene-product 9.5-immunoreactive nerve fibres. In contrast to the normal pancreas, a major subpopulation of intrinsic neurons immunostained for growth-associated protein-43. The expression of growth-associated protein-43 in the terminal fields of pancreatic nerve suggests that the innervation of the normal human pancreas undergoes continual and toposelective remodelling. The increase in the density of growth-associated protein-43 immunoreactive nerve fibres in enlarged nerve trunks paralleled by augmented expression of growth-associated protein-43 in intrinsic neurons and reduced parenchymal growth-associated protein-43-immunoreactive innervation underline the dramatic plasticity of pancreatic innervation in chronic pancreatitis.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease
  • Female
  • GAP-43 Protein
  • Growth Substances / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Pancreas / innervation*
  • Pancreas / metabolism*
  • Pancreas / surgery
  • Pancreatitis / metabolism*
  • Pancreatitis / pathology
  • Pancreatitis / surgery
  • Thiolester Hydrolases / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitin Thiolesterase


  • GAP-43 Protein
  • Growth Substances
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Thiolester Hydrolases
  • Ubiquitin Thiolesterase