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A case of chaos? NO causes arrhythmic motor pattern via interstitial cells of Cajal in the murine colon


Gastrointestinal (GI) motility originates from the complex coordination of smooth muscle contraction and relaxation. GI diseases affecting motility are often associated with impaired nitrergic signaling. In the enteric nervous systems, NO is released from nitrergic neurons as a major inhibitory neurotransmitter. NO acts via NO-sensitive guanylyl cyclase (NO-GC) in different GI cell types such as smooth muscle cells (SMC) and interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC). The precise mechanism of nitrergic signaling through these two cell types to regulate colonic spontaneous contractions is not fully understood yet.


Longitudinal smooth muscle of the proximal colon from WT mice exhibits spontaneous contractile activity in vitro. Colon from global and ICC-specific GCKO animals also exhibited spontaneous rhythmic contractions. Yet, in both genotypes, duration and amplitude of the rhythmic contractions were increased compared to WT. In line with that, colon from WT revealed an arrhythmic contractile pattern which was transformed into a uniform motor pattern after addition of L-NAME or ODQ. Electrical field stimulation induced off-contractions in WT and high amplitude on-contractions in global GCKO colon.

Results and conclusion

Our results prove that basal NO release participates in the regulation of spontaneous contractions in the murine proximal colon. NO-GC activity in ICC converts the contraction pattern from periodic into irregular. Thus, NO-GC in ICC is the major effector for NO in the proximal colon.

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Correspondence to Katharina Beck.

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This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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Beck, K., Groneberg, D., Friebe, A. et al. A case of chaos? NO causes arrhythmic motor pattern via interstitial cells of Cajal in the murine colon. BMC Pharmacol Toxicol 16 (Suppl 1), A36 (2015).

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