Synaptic activation of putative sensory neurons by hexamethonium-sensitive nerve pathways in mouse colon

Timothy J. Hibberd, Lee Travis, Lukasz Wiklendt, Marcello Costa, Simon J.H. Brookes, Hongzhen Hu, Damien J. Keating, Nick J. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


The gastrointestinal tract contains its own independent population of sensory neurons within the gut wall. These sensory neurons have been referred to as intrinsic primary afferent neurons (IPANs) and can be identified by immunoreactivity to calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) in mice. A common feature of IPANs is a paucity of fast synaptic inputs observed during sharp microelectrode recordings. Whether this is observed using different recording techniques is of particular interest for understanding the physiology of these neurons and neural circuit modeling. Here, we imaged spontaneous and evoked activation of myenteric neurons in isolated whole preparations of mouse colon and correlated recordings with CGRP and nitric oxide synthase (NOS) immunoreactivity, post hoc. Calcium indicator fluo 4 was used for this purpose. Calcium responses were recorded in nerve cell bodies located 5–10 mm oral to transmural electrical nerve stimuli. A total of 618 recorded neurons were classified for CGRP or NOS immunoreactivity. Aboral electrical stimulation evoked short-latency calcium transients in the majority of myenteric neurons, including ~90% of CGRP-immunoreactive Dogiel type II neurons. Activation of Dogiel type II neurons had a time course consistent with fast synaptic transmission and was always abolished by hexamethonium (300 M) and by low-calcium Krebs solution. The nicotinic receptor agonist 1,1-dimethyl-4-phenylpiperazinium iodide (during synaptic blockade) directly activated Dogiel type II neurons. The present study suggests that murine colonic Dogiel type II neurons receive prominent fast excitatory synaptic inputs from hexamethonium-sensitive neural pathways. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Myenteric neurons in isolated mouse colon were recorded using calcium imaging and then neurochemically defined. Short-latency calcium transients were detected in >90% of calcitonin gene-related peptide-immunoreactive neurons to electrical stimulation of hexamethonium-sensitive pathways. Putative sensory Dogiel type II calcitonin gene-related peptide-immunoreactive myenteric neurons may receive widespread fast synaptic inputs in mouse colon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)G53-G64
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Intrinsic primary afferent neuron
  • Myenteric neuron
  • Nicotinic


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