Intestine, muscularis externa with Auerbach's plexus
The muscularis externa consists of smooth muscle fibers arranged into two layers. The layer of circular muscle fibers (cut in longitudinal section) appears at the upper left, while the layer of longitudinal muscle fibers (cut in cross section) appears at lower right.
In between the two layers of muscle lies the parasympathetic nerve plexus of Auerbach (also called the myenteric plexus). In routine histological specimens, the ganglia (small clusters of nerve cell bodies) are the only noticeable feature of Auerbach's plexus.
Nerve cell bodies are usually rather conspicuous. Each cell body can be quite large (up to ~50µm), with relatively basophilic cytoplasm, with a large round euchromatic nucleus, and with a single prominent nucleolus.
Associated with peripheral ganglia are numerous small satellite cells and Schwann cells, as well as fibroblasts of the surrounding connective tissue.
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Last updated: 14 January 2002 / dgk