In vitro recording of mesenteric afferent nerve activity in jejunal and colonic segments from rodents

Sarah Nullens, Annemie Deiteren, Wen Jiang, Christopher Keating, Hannah Ceuleers, Sven Franque, David Grundy, Joris de Man de Man, Benedicte de Winter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Afferent nerves not only convey information concerning normal physiology, but also signal disturbed homeostasis and pathophysiological processes of the different organ systems from the periphery towards the central nervous system. As such, the increased activity or 'sensitization' of mesenteric afferent nerves has been allocated an important role in the pathophysiology of visceral hypersensitivity and abdominal pain syndromes.

Mesenteric afferent nerve activity can be measured in vitro in an isolated intestinal segment that is mounted in a purpose-built organ bath and from which the splanchnic nerve is isolated, allowing researchers to directly assess nerve activity adjacent to the gastrointestinal segment. Activity can be recorded at baseline in standardized conditions, during distension of the segment or following the addition of pharmacological compounds delivered intraluminally or serosally. This technique allows the researcher to easily study the effect of drugs targeting the peripheral nervous system in control specimens; besides, it provides crucial information on how neuronal activity is altered during disease. It should be noted however that measuring afferent neuronal firing activity only constitutes one relay station in the complex neuronal signaling cascade, and researchers should bear in mind not to overlook neuronal activity at other levels (e.g., dorsal root ganglia, spinal cord or central nervous system) in order to fully elucidate the complex neuronal physiology in health and disease.

Commonly used applications include the study of neuronal activity in response to the administration of lipopolysaccharide, and the study of afferent nerve activity in animal models of irritable bowel syndrome. In a more translational approach, the isolated mouse intestinal segment can be exposed to colonic supernatants from IBS patients. Furthermore, a modification of this technique has been recently shown to be applicable in human colonic specimens.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere54576
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Visualised Experiments
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2016


  • neuroscience
  • visceral hypersensitivity
  • pain
  • mesenteric nerve activity
  • jejunal afferent nerve activity
  • in vitro recording of afferent nerve activity
  • neuronal activity
  • mechanosensitivity
  • colonic distension


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