Glial cells in the gut

Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2005 Dec;17(6):777-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2982.2005.00687.x.


The enteric nervous system is composed of both neurons and glia. Recent evidence indicates that enteric glia-which vastly outnumber enteric neurons-are actively involved in the control of gastrointestinal functions: they contain neurotransmitter precursors, have the machinery for uptake and degradation of neuroligands, and express neurotransmitter-receptors which makes them well suited as intermediaries in enteric neurotransmission and information processing in the ENS. Novel data further suggest that enteric glia have an important role in maintaining the integrity of the mucosal barrier of the gut. Finally, enteric glia may also serve as a link between the nervous and immune systems of the gut as indicated by their potential to synthesize cytokines, present antigen and respond to inflammatory insults. The role of enteric glia in human disease has not yet been systematically studied, but based on the available evidence it is predictable that enteric glia are involved in the etiopathogenesis of various pathological processes in the gut, particularly such with neuroinflammatory or neurodegenerative components.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Digestive System / innervation*
  • Digestive System / ultrastructure
  • Endothelial Cells / physiology
  • Hormones / physiology
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Smooth / cytology
  • Muscle, Smooth / innervation
  • Muscle, Smooth / physiology
  • Neuroglia / physiology*
  • Neuroglia / ultrastructure
  • Neurons / physiology


  • Hormones