Immunocytochemical identification of interstitial cells of Cajal in the murine fundus using a live-labelling technique

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Interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) within the gastrointestinal (GI) tract play a critical role in the generation of electrical slow waves and as mediators of enteric motor neurotransmission. Kit immunohistochemistry has proven to be a reliable method to identify the location of these cells within the tunica muscularis and to provide information on how the distribution and density of these cells change in a variety of GI motility disorders. Because of the labile nature of Kit or its detection, ultrastructural immunocytochemistry using conventional chemical fixation methods has been difficult. We describe a novel in vivo technique to label ICC within GI tissues. Using antibodies directed against the extracellular domain of the Kit receptor, we have been able to live-label the stomach with Kit while the animal is under anaesthesia and the organ is still receiving normal blood supply. This approach provided optimum maintenance of ultrastructural features with significant binding of antibody to the Kit receptor. The loss of ICC in many human motility disorders suggests exciting new hypotheses for their aetiology. This method will prove useful to investigate the ultrastructural changes that occur in ICC networks in animal models of motility disorders that are associated with the loss of these cells.

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