Morphological and Immunohistochemical Characterization of Human Intrinsic Gastric Neurons
Our knowledge about human gastric enteric neuron types is even more limited than that of human intestinal types. Here, we immunohistochemically stained wholemounts and sec- tions of gastric specimens obtained from 18 tumor-resected patients. Myenteric wholemounts were labeled for choline acetyl transferase (ChAT), neuronal nitric oxide synthase (NOS), and the human neuronal protein HuC/D (as panneuronal marker for quantitative analysis) or alternatively for neurofilament (for morphological evaluation). ChAT-positive neurons outnumbered NOS-positive neurons (56 vs. 27%), and neurons negative for both markers accounted for 17%. Two larger groups of neurons (each between 12 and 14%) costained for ChAT and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) or for NOS and VIP, respectively. Clear morphochemical correlation was found for uniaxonal stubby type I neurons (ChAT+; putative excitatory inter- or motor neurons), for uniaxonal spiny type I neurons (NOS+/VIP+; putative inhibitory motor or interneurons), and for multiaxonal type II neurons (ChAT+; putative afferent neurons; immunostaining of ad- ditional wholemounts revealed their coreactivity for soma- tostatin). Whereas these latter neuron types were already known from the human intestine, the morphology of gastric myenteric neurons coreactive for ChAT and VIP was newly described: they had numerous short, extremely thin dendrites and resembled, together with their cell bodies, a “hairy” head. In our sections, nerve fibers coreactive for ChAT and VIP were commonly found only in the mucosa. We suggest these myenteric ChAT+/VIP+/hairy neurons to be mucosal effector neurons. In contrast to myenteric neurons, the much less common submucosal neurons were not embedded in a continuous plexus and did not display any clear morphochemical phenotypes.