Structurally defined signaling in neuro-glia units in the enteric nervous system

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Coordination of gastrointestinal function relies on joint efforts of enteric neurons and glia, whose crosstalk is vital for the integration of their activity. To investigate the signaling mechanisms and to delineate the spatial aspects of enteric neuron-to-glia communication within enteric ganglia we developed a method to stimulate single enteric neurons while monitoring the activity of neighboring enteric glial cells. We combined cytosolic calcium uncaging of individual enteric neurons with calcium imaging of enteric glial cells expressing a genetically encoded calcium indicator and demonstrate that enteric neurons signal to enteric glial cells through pannexins using paracrine purinergic pathways. Sparse labeling of enteric neurons and high-resolution analysis of the structural relation between neuronal cell bodies, varicose release sites and enteric glia uncovered that this form of neuron-to-glia communication is contained between the cell body of an enteric neuron and its surrounding enteric glial cells. Our results reveal the spatial and functional foundation of neuro-glia units as an operational cellular assembly in the enteric nervous system.

Journal details

Journal Glia
Volume 67
Issue number 6
Pages 1167-1178
Publication date