Classification and functions of enteroendocrine cells of the lower gastrointestinal tract

Int J Exp Pathol. 2011 Aug;92(4):219-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2613.2011.00767.x. Epub 2011 Apr 25.


With over thirty different hormones identified as being produced in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the gut has been described as 'the largest endocrine organ in the body' (Ann. Oncol., 12, 2003, S63). The classification of these hormones and the cells that produce them, the enteroendocrine cells (EECs), has provided the foundation for digestive physiology. Furthermore, alterations in the composition and function of EEC may influence digestive physiology and thereby associate with GI pathologies. Whilst there is a rapidly increasing body of data on the role and function of EEC in the upper GI tract, there is a less clear-cut understanding of the function of EEC in the lower GI. Nonetheless, their presence and diversity are indicative of a role. This review focuses on the EECs of the lower GI where new evidence also suggests a possible relationship with the development and progression of primary adenocarcinoma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Adenocarcinoma / physiopathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Digestion / physiology
  • Disease Progression
  • Enteroendocrine Cells / classification*
  • Enteroendocrine Cells / cytology
  • Enteroendocrine Cells / physiology*
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / pathology
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Lower Gastrointestinal Tract / cytology*