Intestinal subepithelial myofibroblasts (ISEMF) and the interstitial cells of Cajal are the two types of myofibroblasts identified in the intestine. Intestinal myofibroblasts are activated and proliferate in response to various growth factors, particularly the platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) family, which includes PDGF-BB and stem cell factor (SCF), through expression of PDGF receptors and the SCF receptor c-kit. ISEMF have been shown to play important roles in the organogenesis of the intestine, and growth factors and cytokines secreted by these cells promote epithelial restitution and proliferation, i.e., wound repair. Their role in the fibrosis of Crohn's disease and collagenous colitis is being investigated. Through cyclooxygenase (COX)-1 and COX-2 activation, ISEMF augment intestinal ion secretion in response to certain secretagogues. By forming a subepithelial barrier to Na(+) diffusion, they create a hypertonic compartment that may account for the ability of the gut to transport fluid against an adverse osmotic gradient. Through the paracrine secretion of prostaglandins and growth factors (e.g., transforming growth factor-beta), ISEMF may play a role in colonic tumorigenesis and metastasis. COX-2 in polyp ISEMF may be a target for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which would account for the regression of the neoplasms in familial adenomatous polyposis and the preventive effect of NSAIDs in the development of sporadic colon neoplasms. More investigation is needed to clarify the functions of these pleiotropic cells.