Journal Article
Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
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Physiology and pathophysiology of the interstitial cell of Cajal: from bench to bedside. I. Functional development and plasticity of interstitial cells of Cajal networks.

Interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) are the pacemaker cells in gastrointestinal (GI) muscles. They also mediate or transduce inputs from enteric motor nerves to the smooth muscle syncytium. What is known about functional roles of ICC comes from developmental studies based on the discovery that ICC express c-kit. Functional development of ICC networks depends on signaling via the Kit receptor pathway. Immunohistochemical studies using Kit antibodies have expanded our knowledge about the ICC phenotype, the structure of ICC networks, the interactions of ICC with other cells within the tunica muscularis, and the loss of ICC in some motility disorders. Manipulating Kit signaling with reagents to block the receptor or downstream signaling pathways or by using mutant mice in which Kit or its ligand, stem cell factor, are defective has allowed novel studies of the development of these cells within the tunica muscularis and also allowed the study of specific functions of different classes of ICC in several regions of the GI tract. This article examines the role of ICC in GI motility, focusing on the functional development and maintenance of ICC networks in the GI tract and the phenotypic changes that can occur when the Kit signaling pathway is disrupted.

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