Neurochemical coding in the gut

The phenomenon of colocalisation of different neurotransmitters and neuromediators is one of the functionally important features in the gut. In the enteric nervous system (ENS) the specific colocalisation patterns form the neurochemical code of the enteric neurons. This coding characterises the function of a neuron. Our aim is to completely decipher the code in the ENS and its associated cells. So far we already have been able to specify plasticity and disease-related changes in the ENS.

Plasticity of the ENS in the case of inflammatory bowel diseases is apparent in patients with Morbus Crohn and Colitis ulcerosa. The changes point to a refined reaction of the ENS. The increase in the expression of the neuropeptide VIP and the dramatically hypertrophied varicosities of CGRP-positive nerve fibers could be indications of an immune-mediated defense mechanism.

Illustration of the neurotransmitter coding in the enteric nervous system. Multiple immunfluorescent labelling of the human submucous plexus shows nerves positive for cholineacetyltransferase in red, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide in green and substance P in blue. Compound colors show the colocalisation of the different neurotransmitters