Functional biology of intestinal goblet cells

Am J Physiol. 1991 Feb;260(2 Pt 1):C183-93. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.1991.260.2.C183.


Goblet cells reside throughout the length of the small and large intestine and are responsible for the production and maintenance of the protective mucus blanket by synthesizing and secreting high-molecular-weight glycoproteins known as mucins. To elucidate the role of goblet cells in the biology of the intestinal tract, an overview of the physiological implications of the mucus gel is presented, including a concise review of the products secreted by the cell. Because of the unique nature of this highly polarized exocrine cell, the maturational reorganization of the cytoarchitecture and the cellular mechanisms by which goblet cells secrete their products are discussed. This includes elucidation of the baseline secretory pathway, which is dependent on the cytoskeleton for granule movement, and the accelerated secretory pathway, which is independent of the cytoskeleton but requires an extracellular signal to occur. Finally, the involvement of goblet cell mucins in the pathophysiology of intestinal neoplasia and ulcerative colitis are presented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Epithelium / physiology
  • Epithelium / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / cytology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / ultrastructure
  • Intestine, Large / cytology
  • Intestine, Small / cytology
  • Mucins / physiology


  • Mucins