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Properties of nerve endings with small granular vesicles in the distal colon and rectum of the guinea-pig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1793-1811
Number of pages19
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1981

King's Authors


The appearance and distribution of nerve endings (varicosities) containing small granular vesicles have been studied in the distal colon and rectum of the guinea-pig with the electron microscope. Two types of varicosity were recognised. They were distinguished by differences in their synaptic vesicles and in their distribution in the layers of the gut wall. The first type resembled noradrenergic nerves in having predominantly (92%) small vesicles and few (8%) large granular vesicles (90 nm diameter). This type was common in the plexuses and at the medial-adventitial border of arteries and arterioles but was sparsely distributed in the muscle coat. The second type had a lower proportion of small vesicles (69%) and a higher proportion (31%) of large granular vesicles (132 nm diameter). This type was absent in Auerbach's plexus, well represented in the muscle coat and Meissner's plexus and not associated with blood vessels. The first type was labelled with 5-hydroxydopamine, a specific marker for noradrenergic nerves, and disappeared after extrinsic denervation. a procedure which causes degeneration of noradrenergic nerves in the gut. The second type was unaffected by 5-hydroxydopamine and extrinsic denervation.

It is concluded that the two types of small granular vesicle-containing varicosities belong to different axons and that the first type is noradrenergic. The second type of nerve axon has not been described in the gut before and is intrinsic to it. From the distribution and numbers of these axons in the circular muscle it would seem that they play an important role in gut motility.

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