The colon: from banal to brilliant

Toxicol Pathol. 2014 Jan;42(1):67-81. doi: 10.1177/0192623313505930. Epub 2013 Oct 15.


The colon serves as the habitat for trillions of microbes, which it must maintain, regulate, and sequester. This is managed by what is termed the mucosal barrier. The mucosal barrier separates the gut flora from the host tissues; regulates the absorption of water, electrolytes, minerals, and vitamins; and facilitates host-flora interactions. Colonic homeostasis depends on a complex interaction between the microflora and the mucosal epithelium, immune system, vasculature, stroma, and nervous system. Disruptions in the colonic microenvironment such as changes in microbial composition, epithelial cell function/proliferation/differentiation, mucus production/makeup, immune function, diet, motility, or blood flow may have substantial local and systemic consequences. Understanding the complex activities of the colon in health and disease is important in drug development, as xenobiotics can impact all segments of the colon. Direct and indirect effects of pharmaceuticals on intestinal function can produce adverse findings in laboratory animals and humans and can negatively impact drug development. This review will discuss normal colon homeostasis with examples, where applicable, of xenobiotics that disrupt normal function.

Keywords: colon; colonic homeostasis; drug; intestinal motility.; xenobiotic.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement
  • Colon / microbiology*
  • Colon / physiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / microbiology
  • Epithelium / microbiology
  • Epithelium / physiology
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Immunity
  • Interstitial Cells of Cajal / metabolism
  • Interstitial Cells of Cajal / microbiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiology
  • Microbiota
  • Nervous System / cytology
  • Nervous System / metabolism
  • Nervous System / microbiology
  • Xenobiotics / adverse effects*


  • Xenobiotics