Development of intestinal transport function in mammals

Physiol Rev. 2000 Oct;80(4):1633-67. doi: 10.1152/physrev.2000.80.4.1633.


Considerable progress has been made over the last decade in the understanding of mechanisms responsible for the ontogenetic changes of mammalian intestine. This review presents the current knowledge about the development of intestinal transport function in the context of intestinal mucosa ontogeny. The review predominantly focuses on signals that trigger and/or modulate the developmental changes of intestinal transport. After an overview of the proliferation and differentiation of intestinal mucosa, data about the bidirectional traffic (absorption and secretion) across the developing intestinal epithelium are presented. The largest part of the review is devoted to the description of developmental patterns concerning the absorption of nutrients, ions, water, vitamins, trace elements, and milk-borne biologically active substances. Furthermore, the review examines the development of intestinal secretion that has a variety of functions including maintenance of the fluidity of the intestinal content, lubrication of mucosal surface, and mucosal protection. The age-dependent shifts of absorption and secretion are the subject of integrated regulatory mechanisms, and hence, the input of hormonal, nervous, immune, and dietary signals is reviewed. Finally, the utilization of energy for transport processes in the developing intestine is highlighted, and the interactions between various sources of energy are discussed. The review ends with suggestions concerning possible directions of future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Suckling
  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism
  • Biological Transport / genetics
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Colostrum / metabolism
  • Diet
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Enteric Nervous System / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics
  • Growth Substances / metabolism
  • Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / genetics
  • Intestinal Absorption / physiology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / cytology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / embryology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / growth & development
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Mammals
  • Milk / metabolism
  • Salts / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Water / metabolism
  • Weaning


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Growth Substances
  • Hormones
  • Salts
  • Water