Research in the past decade has greatly expanded our understanding of the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease, which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. In addition to the sophisticated network of immune response, the epithelial layer lining the mucosa has emerged as an essential player in the development and persistence of intestinal inflammation. As the frontline of numerous environmental insults in the gut, the intestinal epithelial cells are subject to various cellular stresses. In eukaryotic cells, disturbance of endoplasmic reticulum homeostasis may lead to the accumulation of unfolded and misfolded proteins in the ER lumen, a condition called ER stress. This cellular process activates the unfolded protein response, which functions to enhance the ER protein folding capacity, alleviates the burden of protein synthesis and maturation, and activates ER-associated protein degradation. Paneth and goblet cells, 2 secretory epithelial populations in the gut, are particularly sensitive to ER stress on environmental or genetic disturbances. Recent studies suggested that epithelial ER stress may contribute to the pathogenesis of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis by compromising protein secretion, inducing epithelial cell apoptosis and activating proinflammatory response in the gut. Our knowledge of ER stress in intestinal epithelial function may open avenue to new inflammatory bowel disease therapies by targeting the ER protein folding homeostasis in the cells lining the intestinal mucosa.