AG Neckel

Members: Dr. Peter Neckel, Melanie Scharr

Research interests: Our work primarily focuses on understanding how the enteric nervous system (ENS) works. Aside the brain, the ENS is the largest and arguably most complex neural network found within the body. With approximately 500 million neurons and four to ten times as many enteric glial cells, it forms ganglionated plexus within the walls of the gastrointestinal tract. These plexus exhibit a remarkable histoarchitectural complexity and can regulate many vital intestinal functions even when disconnecting the organ from the rest of the body. Thus, the ENS is often referred to as brain in the gut or second brain.

Our current interests are centered at unraveling molecular signals and intercellular communication that drive the cellular homeostasis and the development of the ENS in postnatal life. Therefore, we work with murine reporter- and fish models as well as human patient- and postmortem specimens to investigate the influence of morphogens, such as Wnt, R-Spondin, Dkk or matrix molecules on the proliferative capacity and neuronal differentiation of ENS progenitor cells. Moreover, we analyze the expression pattern of differentiation- and functional markers in patient samples to improve our understanding of the pathomechanistic basis of enteric neuropathies like Hirschsprung’s disease or gastroschisis-related dysmotility.

Selected signature methods: Primary cell culture of murine and human ENS cells, organotypic culture systems of intestinal tissues, proliferation and neurogenesis assays, immunohistochemistry, tissue clearing.

Selected publications:

• Y Zhang, K Seid, F Obermayr, L Just, PH Neckel. Activation of Wnt Signaling Increases Numbers of Enteric Neurons Derived From Neonatal Mouse and Human Progenitor Cells. Gastroenterology. 2017 153:154-165 e159                          

PH Neckel*, M Scharr, K Seid, K Nothelfer, J Fuchs, F Obermayr, B Hirt, SM Huber, L Just. Wnt receptor Frizzled-4 as a marker for isolation of enteric neural progenitors in human children. Cells. 2019, 8(8), 792      *corresponding Author                          

PH Neckel, R Mohr, Y Zhang, B Hirt, L Just. Comparative Microarray Analysis of Proliferating and Differentiating Murine ENS Progenitor Cells. Stem Cells Int. 2016 30;2016:9695827. Epub 2016 Nov 30.                                                                     

PH Neckel, U Mattheus, B Hirt, L Just, AF Mack. Large-scale tissue clearing (PACT): Technical evaluation and new perspectives in immunofluorescence, histology, and ultrastructure. Sci Rep. 2016 Sep 29;6:34331.                                                            

• F Deffner, M Scharr, S Klingenstein, M Klingenstein, A Milazzo, S Scherer, A Wagner, B Hirt, AF Mack, PH Neckel. Histological evidence for the enteric nervous system and the choroid plexus as alternative routes of neuroinvasion by SARS-CoV2. Front. Neuroanat. 2020 Oct 6;14:596439.                                 

Contact

peter.neckel@uni-tuebingen.de    

follow us on twitter: @NeckelLab

 

Left: Fluorescent micrograph of the murine myenteric plexus Middle: Brightfield image of an enterosphere, a spontaneously organizing cell aggregate remodeling the ENS microenvironment Right: Immunofluorescence of different enteric neuronal subtypes in culture.

Left: Fluorescent micrograph of the murine myenteric plexus
Middle: Brightfield image of an enterosphere, a spontaneously organizing cell aggregate remodeling the ENS microenvironment
Right: Immunofluorescence of different enteric neuronal subtypes in culture.