Gut hormones: emerging role in immune activation and inflammation

Clin Exp Immunol. 2010 Jul 1;161(1):19-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2249.2010.04150.x. Epub 2010 Apr 9.


Gut inflammation is characterized by mucosal recruitment of activated cells from both the innate and adaptive immune systems. In addition to immune cells, inflammation in the gut is associated with an alteration in enteric endocrine cells and various biologically active compounds produced by these cells. Although the change in enteric endocrine cells or their products is considered to be important in regulating gut physiology (motility and secretion), it is not clear whether the change plays any role in immune activation and in the regulation of gut inflammation. Due to the strategic location of enteric endocrine cells in gut mucosa, these gut hormones may play an important role in immune activation and promotion of inflammation in the gut. This review addresses the research on the interface between immune and endocrine systems in gastrointestinal (GI) pathophysiology, specifically in the context of two major products of enteric endocrine systems, namely serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine: 5-HT) and chromogranins (Cgs), in relation to immune activation and generation of inflammation. The studies reviewed in this paper demonstrate that 5-HT activates the immune cells to produce proinflammatory mediators and by manipulating the 5-HT system it is possible to modulate gut inflammation. In the case of Cgs the scenario is more complex, as this hormone has been shown to play both proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory functions. It is also possible that interaction between 5-HT and Cgs may play a role in the modulation of immune and inflammatory responses. In addition to enhancing our understanding of immunoendocrine interaction in the gut, the data generated from the these studies may have implications in understanding the role of gut hormone in the pathogenesis of both GI and non-GI inflammatory diseases which may lead ultimately to improved therapeutic strategies in inflammatory disorders.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Celiac Disease / physiopathology
  • Chromogranins / physiology*
  • Colitis / immunology
  • Colitis / physiopathology*
  • Enterochromaffin Cells / metabolism
  • Enteroendocrine Cells / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal / drug effects
  • Immunity, Mucosal / physiology*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neuroimmunomodulation / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Serotonin / drug effects
  • Receptors, Serotonin / physiology
  • Serotonin / physiology*
  • Serotonin Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists / pharmacology
  • Tryptophan Hydroxylase / deficiency
  • Tryptophan Hydroxylase / genetics


  • Chromogranins
  • Receptors, Serotonin
  • Serotonin Antagonists
  • Serotonin Receptor Agonists
  • Serotonin
  • Tph1 protein, mouse
  • Tryptophan Hydroxylase