The epithelial lining of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract in conjunction with the enteric nervous system (ENS) plays an important role in mediating solute absorption and secretion. A dysregulated ionic movement across the epithelium can result in GI diseases that manifest as either watery diarrhea or constipation. Hirschsprung disease is an example of an ENS disorder characterized by absence of enteric ganglia in distal gut resulting in obstructive phenotype. Receptor rearranged during transfection (RET) gene variants are the most commonly recognized genetic associations with Hirschsprung disease. In this issue of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, Russell et al demonstrate that RET mediates colonic ion transport through modulation of cholinergic nerves. They go on to show inhibition of RET can attenuate accelerated transit in a rat model. Normalizing secretory and absorptive defects has been an attractive therapeutic strategy. In addition to the intrinsic regulation of secretory processes, luminal mediators like bile acids, short-chain fatty acids, and proteases can affect both secretion and barrier function of the intestinal epithelium. Elevated levels of proteases have been identified in a wide range of GI diseases including irritable bowel syndrome. Proteases are known to cause visceral hypersensitivity and barrier disruption in vitro and in animal models. The goals of this review are to describe fundamental concepts related to intestinal epithelial secretion, the utility of Ussing chambers to measure ionic mechanisms and to discuss examples of novel signaling pathways; namely the RET signaling cascade in secretomotor neurons and effects of luminal proteases on barrier and ionic secretion.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems