Why are enteric ganglia so small? Role of differential adhesion of enteric neurons and enteric neural crest cells

Donald F. Newgreen, Benjamin N. Rollo, Dongcheng Zhang, Johanna E. Simkin, Trevelyan R. Menheniott

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10 Citations (Scopus)


The avian enteric nervous system (ENS) consists of a vast number of unusually small ganglia compared to other peripheral ganglia. Each ENS ganglion at mid-gestation has a core of neurons and a shell of mesenchymal precursor/glia-like enteric neural crest (ENC) cells. To study ENS cell ganglionation we isolated midgut ENS cells by HNK-1 fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) from E5 and E8 quail embryos, and from E9 chick embryos. We performed cell-cell aggregation assays which revealed a developmentally regulated functional increase in ENS cell adhesive function, requiring both Ca 2+ -dependent and independent adhesion. This was consistent with N-cadherin and NCAM labelling. Neurons sorted to the core of aggregates, surrounded by outer ENC cells, showing that neurons had higher adhesion than ENC cells. The outer surface of aggregates became relatively non-adhesive, correlating with low levels of NCAM and N-cadherin on this surface of the outer non-neuronal ENC cells. Aggregation assays showed that ENS cells FACS selected for NCAM-high and enriched for enteric neurons formed larger and more coherent aggregates than unsorted ENS cells. In contrast, ENS cells of the NCAM-low FACS fraction formed small, disorganised aggregates. This suggests a novel mechanism for control of ENS ganglion morphogenesis where i) differential adhesion of ENS neurons and ENC cells controls the core/shell ganglionic structure and ii) the ratio of neurons to ENC cells dictates the equilibrium ganglion size by generation of an outer non-adhesive surface.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2015
Externally publishedYes

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