2020 Volume 82 Issue 7 Pages 990-999
The comprehensive targets of innervation in the intestinal mucosa are unknown, partly because of the diversity of cell types and the complexity of the neural circuits. Herein, we investigated the comprehensive targets of neural connectivity and analyzed the precise characteristics of their contact structures in the mucosa of rat ileum. We examined target cells of neural connections and the characteristics of their contact structures by serial block-face scanning electron microscopy at four portions of the rat ileal mucosa: the apical and basal portions in the villi, and the lateral and basal portions around/in the crypts. Nerve fibers were in contact with several types of fibroblast-like cells (FBLCs), macrophage-like cells, eosinophils, lymphocyte-like cells, and other types of cells. The nerve fibers almost always ran more inside of lamina propria than subepithelial FBLC, and thus contacts with epithelial cells were very scarce. The contact structures of the nerve fibers were usually contained synaptic vesicle-like structures, and we classified them into patterns based on the number of nerve fiber contacting the target cells at one site, the maximum diameter of the contact structures, and the relationship between nerve fibers and nerve bundles. The contact structures for each type of cells occasionally dug into the cellular bodies of the target cells. We revealed the comprehensive targets of neural connectivity based on the characteristics of contact structures, and identified FBLCs, immunocompetent cells, and eosinophils as the candidate targets for innervation in the rat ileal mucosa.