BACKGROUND Interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) are pacemaker cells between gastrointestinal smooth muscles; they generate spontaneous slow waves of the smooth muscle layers and mediate neurotransmission. The cellular network of ICC is connected by Gap junctions to each other and to the smooth muscle cells. Although there have been several studies reporting distribution of ICC in the normal bowel and pathological conditions such as Hirschsprung's disease, there is little information on the crucial role of Gap junctions in the intercellular communication in the gut musculature. The aim of this study was to investigate the immunolocalization of the Gap junction protein Connexin43 in the normal and Hirschsprung's disease (HD) bowel using whole-mount preparation technique and confocal laser scanning microscopy. METHODS Full-thickness bowel specimens were collected at pull-through operation from 8 patients diagnosed as having HD. Normal control large bowel specimens were collected from 12 patients during bladder augmentation operation. Whole-mount preparation was performed on all specimens and double immunostaining was carried out using anti c-kit and antiConnexin43 antibodies. The immunolocalization was detected with the help of confocal laser scanning microscopy. RESULTS Connexin43 immunoreactivity appeared in and between the c-kit-positive cells and along the smooth muscle fibers of the normal bowel and ganglionic part of HD bowel. In the aganglionic part of HD bowel there was no expression of Connexin43. In the transitional zone of HD the Connexin43 staining was weak and colocalized only in the processes of the c-kit-positive Cajal cells. CONCLUSIONS Results of this study show for the first time that Gap junctional protein Connexin43 is present in the ICCs, which form a 3-dimensional network in the normal bowel wall. The lack of expression of Connexin43 in the aganglionic bowel and reduced expression in the transitional zone of HD suggest that the impaired intercellular communication between ICCs and smooth muscle cells may partly be responsible for the motility dysfunction in HD.