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Cajal, interstitial cells of

Interstitial cells of Cajal are a specialized group of cells of mesenchymal origin found in the smooth muscle layer of the gastrointestinal tract. These cells are identified throughout the gastrointestinal tract from esophagus to rectum. They are spindle to multipolar cells that are slightly smaller than surrounding smooth muscle cells. Cajal cell processes form connections with both the nerve plexus and smooth muscle cells, thus linking the two. Interstitial cells of Cajal are considered to play the role of gut pacemaker. They trigger spontaneous calcium-dependent contractions of the smooth muscle layer resulting in peristalsis.

Ultrastructurally, interstitial cells of Cajal demonstrate myogenic differentiation. They express c-kit protooncogen and its product tyrosine kinase membrane receptor. Immunohistochemical stain for c-kit (CD117) is used to identify interstitial cells of Cajal, however it should be noted that mast cells also stain positive for c-kit.

Cajal cell is regarded as the cell of origin for gastrointestinal stromal tumor(GIST). Interstitial cells of Cajal are also implicated in the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal motility disorders, namely chronic idiopathic intestinal pseudo-obstruction (CIIP).

References:
  1. Goran Radenkovic, Ivan Nikolic, Vera Todorovic. Interstitial Cells of Cajal - Pacemakers of the Intestinal Musculature. Facta Universitatis. Series: Medicine and Biology. Vol.12, No 1, 2005, pp. 1 - 5
  2. Interstitial cells of Cajal. Horst Ibelgaufts' COPE: Cytokines & Cells Online Pathfinder Encyclopaedia.
  3. Dhanpat Jain, Khalid Moussa, Manish Tandon, Joan Culpepper-Morgan, Deborah D Proctor.Role of Interstitial Cells of Cajal in Motility Disorders of the Bowel. The American Journal of Gastroenterology. 98, 618-624 (1 March 2003)


Last updated: May 3, 2012, 11:07 am EST

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Interstitial cells of Cajal

Interstitial cells of Cajal
(Click to enlarge)

Immunoperoxidase stain for c-kit (CD117) highlights spindle shaped interstitial cells of Cajal surrounding a myenteric plexus ganglion (lower left part of the image). A mast cell containing c-kit positive granules is seen in the upper right corner (green arrow).