Differential gene expression in functional classes of interstitial cells of Cajal in murine small intestine

Hui Chen, Tamás Ördög, Junwei Chen, David L. Young, Michael R. Bardsley, Doug Redelman, Sean M. Ward, Kenton M. Sanders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) have important functions in regulation of motor activity in the gastrointestinal tract. In murine small intestine, ICC are gathered in the regions of the myenteric plexus (ICC-MY) and the deep muscular plexus (ICC-DMP). These two classes of ICC have different physiological functions. ICC-MY are pacemaker cells and generate the slow-wave electrical rhythmicity of gastrointestinal organs. ICCDMP form synaptic connections with the varicose nerve terminals of enteric motor neurons and are involved in reception and transduction of motor neurotransmission. Gene expression underlying specific functions of ICC classes is incompletely understood. In the present study, we used recently developed highly selective techniques to isolate the two functional ICC classes from enzymatically dispersed intestinal muscles by fluorescence-activated cell sorting. The transcriptomes of ICC-MY and ICC-DMP were investigated using oligonucleotide microarray analysis. Differential expression of functional groups of genes defined by standard gene ontology terms was also studied. There were substantial numbers of genes expressed more abundantly in ICC than in the tunica muscularis, and we also detected marked phenotypic differences between ICC-MY and ICC-DMP. Notably, genes related to cell junction, process guidance, and vesicle trafficking were upregulated in ICC. Consistent with their specific functions, metabolic and Ca2+ transport genes were relatively upregulated in ICC-MY, whereas genes for signaling proteins involved in transduction of neurotransmitter functions were relatively upregulated in ICC-DMP. Our results may lead to the identification of novel biomarkers for ICC and provide directions for further studies designed to understand ICC function in health and disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)492-509
Number of pages18
JournalPhysiological Genomics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 14 2007


  • Affymetrix Mouse Genome 430.2 geneChips
  • Bioconductor
  • Enteric nervous system
  • Ion channel
  • Signal transduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Genetics


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