3-D illustration of network orientations of interstitial cells of Cajal subgroups in human colon as revealed by deep-tissue imaging with optical clearing.

Yuan An Liu, Yuan Chiang Chung, Shien Tung Pan, Yung Chi Hou, Shih Jung Peng, Pankaj J. Pasricha, Shiue Cheng Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Morphological changes of interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) have been proposed to characterize motility disorders. However, a global view of the network orientations of ICC subgroups has not been established to illustrate their three-dimensional (3-D) architectures in the human colon. In this research, we integrate c-kit immunostaining, 3-D microscopy with optical clearing, and image rendering to present the location-dependent network orientations with high definition. Full-depth colonic tissues were obtained from colectomies performed for nonobstructing carcinoma. Specimens of colon wall were prepared away from the tumor site. C-kit and nuclear fluorescent staining were used to identify the ICC processes and cell body. Optical clearing was used to generate transparent colon specimens, which led to panoramic visualization of the fluorescence-labeled ICC networks at the myenteric plexus (ICC-MY), longitudinal (ICC-LM) and circular (ICC-CM) muscles, and submucosal boundary (ICC-SM) up to 300 μm in depth via confocal microscopy with subcellular level resolution. We observed four distinct network patterns: 1) periganglionic ICC-MY that connect with ICC-LM and ICC-CM, 2) plexuses of ICC-LM within the longitudinal muscle and extending toward the serosa, 3) repetitive and organized ICC-CM layers running parallel to the circular muscle axis and extending toward the submucosa, and 4) a condensed ICC-SM layer lining the submucosal border. Among the four patterns, the orderly aligned ICC-CM layers provide an appropriate target for quantitation. Our results demonstrate the location-dependent network orientations of ICC subgroups and suggest a practical approach for in-depth imaging and quantitative analysis of ICC in the human colon specimen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G1099-1110
JournalAmerican journal of physiology. Gastrointestinal and liver physiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 2012
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)

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