Ion channel expression in the developing enteric nervous system

Caroline S. Hirst, Jaime P. P. Foong, Lincon A. Stamp, Emily Fegan, Stephan Dent, Edward C. Cooper, Alan E. Lomax, Colin R. Anderson, Joel C. Bornstein, Heather M. Young, Sonja J. McKeown

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The enteric nervous system arises from neural crest-derived cells (ENCCs) that migrate caudally along the embryonic gut. The expression of ion channels by ENCCs in embryonic mice was investigated using a PCR-based array, RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry. Many ion channels, including chloride, calcium, potassium and sodium channels were already expressed by ENCCs at E11.5. There was an increase in the expression of numerous ion channel genes between E11.5 and E14.5, which coincides with ENCC migration and the first extension of neurites by enteric neurons. Previous studies have shown that a variety of ion channels regulates neurite extension and migration of many cell types. Pharmacological inhibition of a range of chloride or calcium channels had no effect on ENCC migration in cultured explants or neuritogenesis in vitro. The non-selective potassium channel inhibitors, TEA and 4-AP, retarded ENCC migration and neuritogenesis, but only at concentrations that also resulted in cell death. In summary, a large range of ion channels is expressed while ENCCs are colonizing the gut, but we found no evidence that ENCC migration or neuritogenesis requires chloride, calcium or potassium channel activity. Many of the ion channels are likely to be involved in the development of electrical excitability of enteric neurons.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0123436
Number of pages20
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • neurites
  • ion channels
  • potassium channels
  • voltage-gated potassium channels
  • voltage-gated sodium channels
  • voltage-gated calcium channels
  • calcium-activated potassium channels
  • neurons

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