Enteric nervous system development: what could possibly go wrong?

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2018 Sep;19(9):552-565. doi: 10.1038/s41583-018-0041-0.


The gastrointestinal tract contains its own set of intrinsic neuroglial circuits - the enteric nervous system (ENS) - which detects and responds to diverse signals from the environment. Here, we address recent advances in the understanding of ENS development, including how neural-crest-derived progenitors migrate into and colonize the bowel, the formation of ganglionated plexuses and the molecular mechanisms of enteric neuronal and glial diversification. Modern lineage tracing and transcription-profiling technologies have produced observations that simultaneously challenge and affirm long-held beliefs about ENS development. We review many genetic and environmental factors that can alter ENS development and exert long-lasting effects on gastrointestinal function, and discuss how developmental defects in the ENS might account for some of the large burden of digestive disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Enteric Nervous System / embryology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / embryology*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / innervation
  • Humans
  • Neural Crest / embryology
  • Neurogenesis
  • Neurons / physiology*