Dclk1-expressing tuft cells constitute a unique intestinal epithelial lineage that is distinct from enterocytes, Paneth cells, goblet cells, and enteroendocrine cells. Tuft cells express taste-related receptors and distinct transcription factors and interact closely with the enteric nervous system, suggesting a chemosensory cell lineage. In addition, recent work has shown that tuft cells interact closely with cells of the immune system, with a critical role in the cellular regulatory network governing responses to luminal parasites. Importantly, ablation of tuft cells severely impairs epithelial proliferation and tissue regeneration after injury, implicating tuft cells in the modulation of epithelial stem/progenitor function. Finally, tuft cells expand during chronic inflammation and in preneoplastic tissues, suggesting a possible early role in inflammation-associated tumorigenesis. Hence, we outline and discuss emerging evidence that strongly supports tuft cells as key regulatory cells in the complex network of the intestinal microenvironment.
Keywords: cancer initiation; inflammation; intestinal stem cells; niche cell; tuft cell.
Copyright © 2017 the American Physiological Society.