Interstitial cells of Cajal as targets for pharmacological intervention in gastrointestinal motor disorders

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 1997 Oct;18(10):393-403. doi: 10.1016/s0165-6147(97)01108-5.


Interstitial cells of Cajal (ICCs) have recently been identified as the pacemaker cells for contractile activity of the gastrointestinal tract. These cells generate the electrical 'slow-wave' activity that determines the characteristic frequency of phasic contractions of the stomach, intestine and colon. Slow waves also determine the direction and velocity of propagation of peristaltic activity, in concert with the enteric nervous system. Characterization of receptors and ion channels in the ICC membrane is under way, and manipulation of slow-wave activity markedly alters movement of contents through the gut organs. Here Jan Huizinga, Lars Thuneberg, Jean-Marie Vanderwinden and Jüri Rumessen, suggest that, as ICCs are unique to the gut, they might be ideal targets for pharmacological intervention in gastrointestinal motility disorders, which are very common and costly.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Clocks / drug effects
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Digestive System / cytology*
  • Digestive System / drug effects
  • Digestive System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Gastrointestinal Agents / therapeutic use
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / drug effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology*
  • Humans


  • Gastrointestinal Agents