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Endocrine Gut and Host Defense

Introduction

The gut contains hundreds of thousands of endocrine cells which react to changes in gut contents by releasing hormones and variety of bioactive peptides. These hormones and peptides regulate intestinal motility and secretion and also modulate activity of mucosal immune cells. Enterochromaffin (EC) cells are best characterized endocrine cells in gut, and are the major source of serotonin which is also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT).  About 95% of the body’s serotonin is located in gut and serotonin is implicated in a number of intestinal diseases including functional disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and in a number of intestinal infections.  The physiological role of gut hormones/peptides such as 5-HT as well as their involvement in inflammatory and functional intestinal diseases, as well as in metabolism and obesity, is currently under investigation. In turn, the interaction between endocrine cells and their secretory products to the surrounding microbiota, immune system and nervous system in relation to gut inflammation and host defense has been demonstrated but under studied. Examining the relation between the gut endocrine system to these other effector systems will help to determine a more comprehensive understanding of gut responses to specific stimuli and how this may contribute to disease pathology, pathophysiology, and host defense.

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