Regional and transmural density of interstitial cells of Cajal in human colon and rectum

Am J Physiol. 1998 Dec;275(6):G1309-16. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.1998.275.6.G1309.


The interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) are thought to play an important role in the control of gut motility. The regional and transmural pattern of distribution of ICC in the normal human colon and rectum was evaluated with immunohistochemistry using an anti-c-kit antibody. The transmural distribution of ICC was constant throughout the whole colon, the density of ICC was significantly greater at the myenteric plexus than at either the longitudinal or circular muscle layers, and in the rectum the transmural distribution was more even. Regionally, at the myenteric plexus, the transverse colon had a significantly greater density of ICC compared with the right colon (P = 0.038), left colon (P = 0.006), and rectum (P = 0.008). The pattern of distribution of ICC identified in this study is consistent with the proposed roles of ICC as colorectal pacemakers, intermediaries of the neural control of muscle activity, and coordinators of colorectal muscle activity. The highest density of ICC was at the myenteric plexus of the transverse colon, which is the proposed region of pacemaking activity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cell Count
  • Colon / cytology*
  • Colon / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mast Cells / cytology
  • Mast Cells / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Smooth / cytology
  • Muscle, Smooth / metabolism
  • Myenteric Plexus / cytology
  • Myenteric Plexus / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit / metabolism
  • Rectum / cytology*
  • Rectum / metabolism


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-kit