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Interstitial cells of Cajal, enteric nerves, and glial cells in colonic diverticular disease
  1. G Bassotti1,
  2. E Battaglia2,
  3. G Bellone4,
  4. L Dughera2,
  5. S Fisogni5,
  6. C Zambelli5,
  7. A Morelli1,
  8. P Mioli3,
  9. G Emanuelli4,
  10. V Villanacci5
  1. 1Gastroenterology and Hepatology Section, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Perugia, 06100 Perugia, Italy
  2. 2Departments of Gastroenterology and Clinical Nutrition, San Giovanni Battista Hospital, 10020 Turin, Italy
  3. 3Emergency Surgical Unit, San Giovanni Battista Hospital
  4. 4Department of Clinical Pathophysiology, University of Turin, 10020 Turin, Italy
  5. 5Second Pathology Department, Spedali Civili, 25100 Brescia, Italy
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr G Bassotti
 Clinica di Gastroenterologia ed Epatologia, Via Enrico Dal Pozzo, Padiglione W, 06100 Perugia, Italy;


Background: Colonic diverticular disease (diverticulosis) is a common disorder in Western countries. Although its pathogenesis is probably multifactorial, motor abnormalities of the large bowel are thought to play an important role. However, little is known about the basic mechanism that may underlie abnormal colon motility in diverticulosis.

Aims: To investigate the interstitial cells of Cajal (the gut pacemaker cells), together with myenteric and submucosal ganglion and glial cells, in patients with diverticulosis.

Patients: Full thickness colonic samples were obtained from 39 patients undergoing surgery for diverticulosis. Specimens from tumour free areas of the colon in 10 age matched subjects undergoing surgery for colorectal cancer served as controls.

Methods: Interstitial cells of Cajal were assessed using anti-Kit antibodies; submucosal and myenteric plexus neurones and glial cells were assessed by means of anti-PGP 9.5 and anti-S-100 monoclonal antibodies, respectively.

Results: Patients with diverticulosis had normal numbers of myenteric and submucosal plexus neurones compared with controls (p  =  0.103 and p  =  0.516, respectively). All subtypes of interstitial cells of Cajal were significantly (p  =  0.0003) reduced compared with controls, as were glial cells (p  =  0.0041).

Conclusions: Interstitial cells of Cajal and glial cells are decreased in colonic diverticular disease, whereas enteric neurones appear to be normally represented. This finding might explain some of the large bowel motor abnormalities reported to occur in this condition.

  • ICC, interstitial cells of Cajal
  • IC-IM, muscle fibre interstitial cells of Cajal
  • IC-MY, myenteric region interstitial cells of Cajal
  • IC-SM, submucosal interstitial cells of Cajal
  • PGP 9.5, protein gene product 9.5
  • colonic diverticulosis
  • interstitial cells of Cajal
  • Kit

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