Differential biomechanical properties of mouse distal colon and rectum innervated by the splanchnic and pelvic afferents

Saeed Siri, Franz Maier, Longtu Chen, Stephany Santos, David Michael Pierce, Bin Feng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Citations (Scopus)


Visceral pain is one of the principal complaints of patients with irritable bowel syndrome, and this pain is reliably evoked by mechanical distension and stretch of distal colon and rectum (colorectum). This study focuses on the biomechanics of the colorectum that could play critical roles in mechanical neural encoding. We harvested the distal 30 mm of the colorectum from mice, divided evenly into three 10-mm-long segments (colonic, intermediate and rectal), and conducted biaxial mechanical stretch tests and opening-angle measurements for each tissue segment. In addition, we determined the collagen fiber orientations and contents across the thickness of the colorectal wall by nonlinear imaging via second harmonic generation (SHG). Our results reveal a progressive increase in tissue compliance and prestress from colonic to rectal segments, which supports prior electrophysiological findings of distinct mechanical neural encodings by afferents in the lumbar splanchnic nerves (LSN) and pelvic nerves (PN) that dominate colonic and rectal innervations, respectively. The colorectum is significantly more viscoelastic in the circumferential direction than in the axial direction. In addition, our SHG results reveal a rich collagen network in the submucosa and orients approximately ±30° to the axial direction, consistent with the biaxial test results presenting almost twice the stiffness in axial direction versus the circumferential direction. Results from current biomechanical study strongly indicate the prominent roles of local tissue biomechanics in determining the differential mechanical neural encoding functions in different regions of the colorectum. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Mechanical distension and stretch—not heat, cutting, or pinching—reliably evoke pain from distal colon and rectum. We report different local mechanics along the longitudinal length of the colorectum, which is consistent with the existing literature on distinct mechanotransduction of afferents innervating proximal and distal regions of the colorectum. This study draws attention to local mechanics as a potential determinant factor for mechanical neural encoding of the colorectum, which is crucial in visceral nociception.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)G473-G481
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019


  • Biaxial test
  • Irritable bowel syndromes
  • Mechano transduction
  • Second harmonic generation
  • Visceral pain
  • Rectum/innervation
  • Lumbosacral Region/innervation
  • Colon/innervation
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome/physiopathology
  • Visceral Pain/etiology
  • Splanchnic Nerves/physiopathology
  • Pelvis/innervation
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Animals
  • Mice
  • Mechanoreceptors
  • Second Harmonic Generation Microscopy/methods
  • Disease Models, Animal


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