Article révisé par les pairs
Résumé : The role of the interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) associated with the myenteric plexus (ICC-MP) as regulators of the motility of the colonic external muscle remains unclear. Ultrastructural studies of myenteric interstitial cells are lacking in human colon. We therefore characterized the distinctive ultrastructure of these cells in the myenteric region of the colon by transmission electron microscopy of the region between the main muscle layers in all parts of the colon in unaffected areas of resected specimens from nine adult human patients. ICC-MP were similar in various colonic regions and had myoid features such as scattered caveolae, prominent intermediate filaments, and cytoplasmic dense bodies. We found characteristic dense membrane-associated bands with a patchy basal lamina, invaginating cellular protrusions (peg and socket junctions) between ICC and between ICC and muscle cells, and close contacts (<100 nm) between ICC and nerves. No gap junctions were observed. Fibroblast-like cells (FLC) were abundant showing well-developed secretory organelles, including coated vesicles, but lacked prominent intermediate filaments and caveolae. FLC had a patchy basal lamina, and peg and socket junctions were observed between them. Macrophage-like cells frequently occurred in close apposition with FLC and, more seldomly, with ICC-MP. The ultrastructure of ICC and FLC in the myenteric region of the human colon thus differs characteristically, but significant overlaps in the ultrastructure between ICC and FLC might complicate any interpretation in pathological ultrastructural studies of the human colonic muscle layer.