Gastrointestinal symptoms, particularly constipation, increase with aging, but their underlying mechanisms are poorly understood due to a lack of experimental models. Previously we established the progeric klotho mouse as a model of aging-associated anorexia and gastric dysmotility. We also detected reduced fecal output in these animals; therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate in-vivo function and cellular make-up of the small intestinal and colonic neuromuscular apparatus.
Klotho expression was studied by RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry. Motility was assessed by dye transit and bead expulsion. Smooth muscle and neuron-specific gene expression was studied by Western immunoblotting. Interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) and precursors were analyzed by flow cytometry, confocal microscopy and 3-dimensional reconstruction. HuC/D+ myenteric neurons were enumerated by fluorescent microscopy.
Klotho protein was detected in neurons, smooth muscle cells and some ICC classes. Small intestinal transit was slower but whole-gut transit of klotho mice was accelerated due to faster colonic transit and shorter intestinal lengths, apparent only after weaning. Fecal water content remained normal despite reduced output. Smooth muscle myosin expression was reduced. ICC, ICC precursors, as well as nitrergic and cholinergic neurons maintained their normal proportions in the shorter intestines.
Conclusions & Inferences
Progeric klotho mice express less contractile proteins and develop generalized intestinal neuromuscular hypoplasia mainly arising from stunted post-weaning growth. Since reduced fecal output in these mice occurs in the presence of accelerated colonic and whole-gut transit, it likely reflects reduced food intake rather than intestinal dysmotility.