The enteric nervous system (ENS) in mammals forms from neural crest cells during embryogenesis and early postnatal life. Nevertheless, multipotent progenitors of the ENS can be identified in the adult intestine using clonal cultures and in vivo transplantation assays. The identity of these neurogenic precursors in the adult gut and their relationship to the embryonic progenitors of the ENS are currently unknown. Using genetic fate mapping, we here demonstrate that mouse neural crest cells marked by SRY box–containing gene 10 (Sox10) generate the neuronal and glial lineages of enteric ganglia. Most neurons originated from progenitors residing in the gut during mid-gestation. Afterward, enteric neurogenesis was reduced, and it ceased between 1 and 3 months of postnatal life. Sox10-expressing cells present in the myenteric plexus of adult mice expressed glial markers, and we found no evidence that these cells participated in neurogenesis under steady-state conditions. However, they retained neurogenic potential, as they were capable of generating neurons with characteristics of enteric neurons in culture. Furthermore, enteric glia gave rise to neurons in vivo in response to chemical injury to the enteric ganglia. Our results indicate that despite the absence of constitutive neurogenesis in the adult gut, enteric glia maintain limited neurogenic potential, which can be activated by tissue dissociation or injury.
Catia Laranjeira, Katarina Sandgren, Nicoletta Kessaris, William Richardson, Alexandre Potocnik, Pieter Vanden Berghe, Vassilis Pachnis