Enteroendocrine cells are cells found in the wall of the gut that secrete hormones that regulate numerous processes in the body, including controlling glucose levels, food intake, and stomach emptying. There are at least ten types of enteroendocrine cell and it has been hard to determine the exact role of each cell type and hormone they secrete because many of the hormones have partially overlapping functions.
However, a team of researchers, led by Georg Mellitzer and Gérard Gradwohl, at INSERM U964, Université de Strasbourg, France, has now generated mice lacking all enteroendocrine cells and hormones by deleting the gene Ngn3 and found that a lack of these cells leads to a high chance of dying during the first week of life. Surviving mice were smaller than normal littermates, had soft stool, and were impaired in their ability to absorb fat in the intestines.
The clinical relevance of these data are highlighted by the recent identification of several patients with NGN3 gene mutations who show an almost complete lack of all enteroendocrine cells and suffer, from the first days of life, from malabsorptive chronic diarrhea.
The research appears in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
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