Glucose, epithelium, and enteric nervous system: dialogue in the dark

J Anim Physiol Anim Nutr (Berl). 2009 Jun;93(3):277-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0396.2008.00847.x.


The gastrointestinal epithelium is in close contact with the various components of the chymus, including nutrients, bacteria and toxins. The epithelial barrier has to decide which components are effectively absorbed and which components are extruded. In the small intestine, a nutrient like glucose is mainly absorbed by the sodium linked glucose cotransporter 1 (SGLT1) and the glucose transporter 2 (GLUT2). The expression and activity of both transport proteins is directly linked to the amount of intraluminal glucose. Besides the direct interaction between glucose and the enterocytes, glucose also stimulates different sensory mechanisms within the intestinal wall. The most important types of cells involved in the sensing of intraluminal contents are enteroendocrine cells and neurones of the enteric nervous system. Regarding glucosensing, a distinct type of enteroendocrine cells, the enterochromaffine (EC) cells are involved. Excitation of EC cells by intraluminal glucose results in the release of serotonin (5-HT), which modulates epithelial functions and activates enteric secretomotorneurones. Enteric neurones are not only activated by 5-HT, but also directly by glucose. The activation of different cell types and the subsequent crosstalk between these cells may trigger appropriate absorptive and secretory processes within the intestine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiology*
  • Intestines / innervation*


  • Glucose