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Cell Culture of Autonomic and Enteric Neurons

Cell Culture of Autonomic and Enteric Neurons

Autonomic and Enteric Nervous System

The human nervous system, a highly complex part of the body playing a leading role in the regulation of physiological functional activities, generally consists of the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system. And the peripheral nervous system is further divided into the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system based on sensory activities.

The autonomic nervous system, also known as the vegetative nervous system, is a control system responsible for regulating a variety of involuntary physiologic processes, such as heart rate, pupillary response, smooth muscle contraction, and gland secretion. The human autonomic nervous system comprises 3 parts: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), and the enteric nervous system (ENS), among which the SNS and PNS consist of a preganglionic neuron and a postganglionic neuron whereas the (ENS) composed of millions of neurons with multiple different morphologies. SNS and PNS function antagonistically and complementarily, where SNS mediates a series of physiological activities under tension (i.e., accelerated heart rate, increased blood pressure, and weakened digestion); while PNS is mainly responsible for activities in rest and digest (i.e., decreased heartbeat and blood pressure, narrowed bronchus, and increased gastrointestinal activity). ENS, also known as the second brain, functions independently of the SNS and PNS to regulate digestive functions.

The innervation of the gastrointestinal tract. Fig.1 The innervation of the gastrointestinal tract. (Furness, 2012)

Cell Culture of Autonomic and Enteric Neurons

The culture of autonomic neurons, especially sympathetic neurons, is a useful technique for a range of neuroscience studies. Up to now, sympathetic neuron cell culture has made huge contributions to the investigation of the molecular mechanism of neural cell development and differentiation, as well as the study of sympathetic physiology and pharmacology. The culture of autonomic and enteric neurons generally covers:

  • Neural crest cell culture: neural crest cells are transitional pluripotent cells during embryonic development, which can induce differentiation into a variety of neural cell lineages. This is a popular model for the study of differentiation of progenitor cells of those autonomic neurons and differentiation-related pathways.
  • Sympathetic neuron culture: sympathetic neuron culture has been widely applied for the studies of neurotrophic factors and axon growth cone behavior, as well as for the research of neuronal development and plasticity. Although sympathetic neurons from diverse species have been cultured, the most commonly used are sympathetic neuron cultures from rats and embryonic chicks.
  • Parasympathetic neuron culture: parasympathetic neurons can be isolated from the ganglia of many organs of diverse animals for in vitro culture. It is valuable in the investigation of the neurotransmitter content and distribution, receptor distribution, and the interaction between parasympathetic nerve and inflammatory cells.
  • Enteric neuron culture: at least 14 different enteric neuron types have been identified, which express a diversity of neurotransmitters. Both primary neuron culture and enteric neural stem or progenitor cell differentiation are available for enteric neuron culture. It is useful in neurophysiology, electrophysiology, and pharmacology research.

Culture and differentiation of enteric neural stem/progenitor cells. Fig.2 Culture and differentiation of enteric neural stem/progenitor cells. (Zhang, 2015)

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  1. Furness, J.B. The enteric nervous system and neurogastroenterology. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2012, 9: 286-294.
  2. Zhang, Y.G.; Hu, W.H. Mouse Enteric Neuronal Cell Culture. Methods in Molecular Biology. 2013, 1078: 55-63.
For Research Use Only. Not For Clinical Use.
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