Transmission of rectal electric waves: is it through circular or longitudinal smooth muscle layers or both?


The rectum possesses electric activity in the form of pacesetter (PPs) and action potentials (APs). In recent studies we suggested that the waves are not initiated by the extrarectal autonomic innervation but might be triggered by a 'rectosigmoid pacemaker' and are transmitted in the rectal wall through the rectal musculature and not the enteric nerve plexus. To investigate whether the rectal waves are transmitted through the circular or longitudinal muscle layer, the rectum of 18 mongrel dogs was exposed under anesthesia through an abdominal incision. Three electrodes were applied to the rectal wall (longitudinal muscle layer) and another 3 electrodes to the circular muscle; the latter was exposed by splitting apart the fibers of the longitudinal muscle. Rectal electric activity and pressure were recorded from the 6 electrodes before and after performing individual myotomy of the rectal longitudinal (9 dogs), circular (9 dogs), and then the whole muscle layers (18 dogs). The myotomy was performed proximal to and between the electrodes. Pacesetter (PPs) and action potentials (APs) were recorded from the 3 electrodes on the longitudinal muscle but no waves were registered from those on the circular muscle. After longitudinal muscle myotomy was performed between electrodes 1 and 2, PPs and APs were recorded from electrode 1 but not 2 and 3 and when performed proximally to electrode 1, no waves were registered. The rectal pressure increased concomitantly with occurrence of APs. Circular muscle myotomy effected no change in the rectal electric activity recorded from the 3 electrodes applied to the longitudinal muscle. In total muscle myotomy, the electric waves were recorded from the electrodes proximal but not distal to the myotomy. We propose that the motile activity of the rectal longitudinal muscle is initiated by the electric activity which appears to be triggered by the rectosigmoid pacemaker, while that of the circular muscle fibers is believed to be initiated by the stretch reflex induced by rectal distension. This concept is evidenced not only by the current findings but also by the histologic structure of the rectal musculature being of the unitary type of smooth muscles.


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