Interstitial cell network volume is reduced in the terminal bowel of ageing mice

Prasanna P.K.M. Gamage, Bhavik A. Patel, Mark S. Yeoman, Rachel N. Ranson, M. Jill Saffrey

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Ageing is associated with impaired neuromuscular function of the terminal gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which can result in chronic constipation, faecal impaction and incontinence. Interstitial cells of cajal (ICC) play an important role in regulation of intestinal smooth muscle contraction. However, changes in ICC volume with age in the terminal GI tract (the anal canal including the anal sphincter region and rectum) have not been studied. Here, the distribution, morphology and network volume of ICC in the terminal GI tract of 3- to 4-month-old and 26- to 28-month-old C57BL/6 mice were investigated. ICC were identified by immunofluorescence labelling of wholemount preparations with an antibody against c-Kit. ICC network volume was measured by software-based 3D volume rendering of confocal Z stacks. A significant reduction in ICC network volume per unit volume of muscle was measured in aged animals. No age-associated change in ICC morphology was detected. The thickness of the circular muscle layer of the anal sphincter region and rectum increased with age, while that in the distal colon decreased. These results suggest that ageing is associated with a reduction in the network volume of ICC in the terminal GI tract, which may influence the normal function of these regions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2018


  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Constipation
  • Enteric nervous system
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • IAS
  • Incontinence
  • Internal anal sphincter
  • Smooth muscle


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