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.
© 2011 The Authors. International Journal of Experimental Pathology © 2011 International Journal of Experimental Pathology.