GPR41/FFAR3 and GPR43/FFAR2 as cosensors for short-chain fatty acids in enteroendocrine cells vs FFAR3 in enteric neurons and FFAR2 in enteric leukocytes

Endocrinology. 2013 Oct;154(10):3552-64. doi: 10.1210/en.2013-1142. Epub 2013 Jul 24.


The expression of short-chain fatty acid receptors GPR41/FFAR3 and GPR43/ free fatty acid receptor 2 (FFAR2) was studied in the gastrointestinal tract of transgenic monomeric red fluorescent protein (mRFP) reporter mice. In the stomach free fatty acid receptor 3 (FFAR3)-mRFP was expressed in a subpopulation of ghrelin and gastrin cells. In contrast, strong expression of FFAR3-mRFP was observed in all cholecystokinin, glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide (GIP), and secretin cells of the proximal small intestine and in all glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), peptide YY, and neurotensin cells of the distal small intestine. Throughout the colon and rectum, FFAR3-mRFP was strongly expressed in the large population of peptide YY and GLP-1 cells and in the neurotensin cells of the proximal colon. A gradient of expression of FFAR3-mRFP was observed in the somatostatin cells from less than 5% in the stomach to more than 95% in the rectum. Substance P-containing enterochromaffin cells displayed a similar gradient of FFAR3-mRFP expression throughout the small intestine. Surprisingly, FFAR3-mRFP was also expressed in the neuronal cells of the submucosal and myenteric ganglia. Quantitative PCR analysis of fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) purified FFAR3-mRFP positive cells confirmed the coexpression with the various peptide hormones as well as key neuronal marker proteins. The FFAR2-mRFP reporter was strongly expressed in a large population of leukocytes in the lamina propria of in particular the small intestine but surprisingly only weakly in a subpopulation of enteroendocrine cells. Nevertheless, synthetic ligands specific for either FFAR3 or FFAR2 each released GLP-1 from colonic crypt cultures and the FFAR2 agonist mobilized intracellular Ca²⁺ in FFAR2 positive enteroendocrine cells. It is concluded that FFAR3-mRFP serves as a useful marker for the majority of enteroendocrine cells of the small and large intestine and that FFAR3 and FFAR2 both act as sensors for short-chain fatty acids in enteroendocrine cells, whereas FFAR3 apparently has this role alone in enteric neurons and FFAR2 in enteric leukocytes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Enteric Nervous System / metabolism*
  • Enteroendocrine Cells / cytology
  • Enteroendocrine Cells / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / metabolism*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / cytology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / immunology
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / innervation
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Leukocytes / immunology
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Ligands
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mucous Membrane / cytology
  • Mucous Membrane / immunology
  • Mucous Membrane / innervation
  • Mucous Membrane / metabolism
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / agonists
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Red Fluorescent Protein


  • Biomarkers
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Ffar2 protein, mouse
  • Gpcr41 protein, mouse
  • Ligands
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins