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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Ultrastructural characterization of the interstitial cells of Cajal.

Recent studies on the interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) have determined ultrastructural criteria for the identification of these previously enigmatic cells. This review deals with the electron microscopic findings obtained by the author's research group in different tissue regions of the gut in mice, rats and guinea-pigs, comparing these with reports from other groups in different species and in humans. ICC are characterized by the following morphological criteria: numerous mitochondria, abundant intermediate filaments and large gap junctions which connect the cells with each other and with smooth muscle cells. Due to their location in the gut and the specific species, the ICC are markedly heterogeneous in appearance, ranging from cells closely resembling smooth muscle cells to those similar to fibroblasts (Table 1). Nevertheless, the above-mentioned morphological features are shared by all types of ICC and serve in identifying them. Recent discoveries on a significant role of c- kit in the maturation of the ICC and their specific immunoreactivity to anti-c-Kit antibody have confirmed the view that the ICC comprise an independent and specific entity of cells. This view is reinforced by the findings of the author's group that the ICC characteristically possess vimentin filaments and are stained with the zinc iodide-osmium tetroxide method which provides a staining affinity similar to methylene blue, the dye used in the original work by Cajal, (1911). Developmental studies indicate that the ICC are derived from a non-neuronal, mesenchymal origin. This paper further reviews advances in the physiological studies on the ICC, in support of the hypothesis by THUNEBERG (1982) that they function as a pacemaker in the digestive tract and a mediator transmitting impulses from the nerve terminals to the smooth muscle cells.[1]


  1. Ultrastructural characterization of the interstitial cells of Cajal. Komuro, T., Seki, K., Horiguchi, K. Arch. Histol. Cytol. (1999) [Pubmed]
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