Perivascular Interstitial Cells of Cajal in Human Colon

Yuan An Liu, Yuan Chiang Chung, Ming Yin Shen, Shien Tung Pan, Chun Wei Kuo, Shih Jung Peng, Pankaj J. Pasricha, Shiue Cheng Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background & Aims: Interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) closely associate with nerves and smooth muscles to modulate gut motility. In the ICC microenvironment, although the circulating hormones/factors have been shown to influence ICC activities, the association between ICC and microvessels in the gut wall has not been described. We applied three-dimensional (3D) vascular histology with c-kit staining to identify the perivascular ICC and characterize their morphologic and population features in the human colon wall. Methods: Full-thickness colons were obtained from colectomies performed for colorectal cancer. We targeted the colon wall away from the tumor site. Confocal microscopy with optical clearing (use of immersion solution to reduce scattering in optical imaging) was performed to simultaneously reveal the ICC and vascular networks in space. 3D image rendering and projection were digitally conducted to illustrate the ICC-vessel contact patterns. Results: Perivascular ICC were identified in the submucosal border, myenteric plexus, and circular and longitudinal muscles via high-definition 3D microscopy. Through in-depth image projection, we specified two contact patterns-the intimate cell body-to-vessel contact (type I, 18% of ICC in circular muscle) and the long-distance process-to-vessel contact (type II, 16%)-to classify perivascular ICC. Particularly, type I perivascular ICC were detected with elevated c-kit staining levels and were routinely found in clusters, making them readily distinguishable from other ICC in the network. Conclusions: We propose a new subclass of ICC that closely associates with microvessels in the human colon. Our finding suggests a functional relationship between these mural ICC and microvessels based on the morphologic proximity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-119
Number of pages18
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • 3D Histology
  • C-kit
  • ICC
  • Mural Cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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