Interstitial Cells of Cajal

For the cell in the midbrain, see Rostral interstitial nucleus of medial longitudinal fasciculus.
Interstitial cell of Cajal
Latin cellulae interstitiales stimulantes[1]

The interstitial cell of Cajal (ICC) is a type of interstitial cell found in the gastrointestinal tract that serves as a pacemaker which creates the bioelectrical slow wave potential that leads to contraction of the smooth muscle.[2]

Many types of smooth muscle tissues have now been shown to contain ICC, but with few exceptions the function of these cells is not known and is currently an area of active research. An international society (International Society for ICC, has recently been formed to provide a forum to discuss research in ICC in a variety of tissues.

These cells are derived from mesoderm.[3]

Role in slow wave activity


Frequency of ICC pacemaker cells

The frequency of ICC pacemaker activity differs in different regions of the GI tract:

ICC also mediate neural input from enteric motor neurons. Animals lacking ICC have greatly reduced responses to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, released from excitatory motor neurons, and to the transmitter nitric oxide, released from inhibitory motor neurons. Loss of ICC in disease, therefore, may interrupt normal neural control of gastrointestinal (GI) contractions and lead to functional GI disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

ICC also express mechano-sensitive mechanisms that cause these cells to respond to stretch. Stretching GI muscles can affect the resting potentials of ICC and affect the frequency of pacemaker activity.

ICC are also critical in the propagation of electrical slow waves. ICC form a network through which slow wave activity can propagate. If this network is broken, then 2 regions of muscle will function independently.


ICCs are thought to be the cells from which gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs) arise.[4] Also, abnormalities in the ICC network is one cause of chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction.[5]


The interstitial cells of Cajal are named after Santiago Ramón y Cajal,[6] a Spanish pathologist and Nobel laureate.


External links

  • Overview of ICCs -
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.