Constitutive expression of cyclooxygenase-2 in the neuromuscular compartment of normal human colon

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Prostaglandins regulate various functions throughout the gastrointestinal system. Their biosynthesis depends on cyclooxygenase isoforms, named COX-1 and COX-2. The initial hypothesis that COX-2 is an inducible enzyme has been challenged and its constitutive expression in the stomach has been established. In this study, an immunohistochemical analysis was performed to evaluate the distribution and cellular localization of COX-2 in normal human colon. Colonic surgical specimens were processed for COX-2, protein HuC/HuD, neurofilament, S-100 protein and CD117/c-kit immunodetection. COX-2 protein was found to be constitutively expressed in the colonic wall: detectable amounts were localized in mucosal, submucosal and muscular layers, mainly in the neuromuscular compartment. In particular, COX-2 was expressed in muscularis mucosae, submucosal ganglia, longitudinal muscle layer and myenteric ganglia, the neurons of which displayed different degrees of immunostaining. Intramuscular interstitial cells of Cajal, regarded as important sites for the regulation of enteric neuromuscular activity, were also partly COX-2 immunoreactive. This study provides a detailed mapping of COX-2 expression in human colon, and allows better understanding of the roles played by this isoenzyme in gut physiology.

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