Neurogenic bowel following spinal cord injury (SCI) leads to decreased colonic motility, remodeling of the neuromuscular compartment and results in chronic evacuation difficulties. The distal colon of the rat serves a dual role for fluid absorption and storage that is homologous to the descending colon of humans. Dysmotility of the descending colon is one component of neurogenic bowel. We investigated the integrity of the enteric neuromuscular transmission responsible for the generation of excitatory and inhibitory junction potentials (EJPs and IJPs, respectively) in the distal colon of rats. We previously demonstrated a chronic reduction in colonic enteric neurons from rats with acute and chronic high-thoracic (T3) SCI and hypothesized that neurogenic bowel following T3-SCI results from diminished enteric neuromuscular transmission. Immunohistochemical labeling for myenteric neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) and choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) neurons demonstrated a significant loss of presumptive nitric oxide (NO) and acetylcholine (ACh) immunoreactive neurons in both 3-day and 3-week injured animals. Colonic neuromuscular transmission in response to transmural electrical stimulation of the colon was significantly reduced 3-days and 3-weeks following SCI in male rats. Specifically, cholinergic-mediated excitatory junction potentials (EJPs) and nitrergic-mediated slow inhibitory junction potentials (IJPs) were significantly reduced while ATP-mediated fast IJPs remained unaffected. We conclude that a reduction in excitatory and inhibitory enteric neuromuscular transmission contributes to neurogenic bowel observed following SCI, and that these loss-of-function changes involve enteric-mediated cholinergic and nitrergic pathways.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Developmental Neuroscience