Journal article Open Access
The afferent innervation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract consists of intrinsic and extrinsic sensory neurons that respond to nutrients, chemicals or mechanical stimuli within the gut lumen. Most stimuli do not interact directly with the afferent nerves but instead activate specialised cells in the epithelium in a process of sensory transduction. It is thought that one of the first steps in this process is the release of serotonin (5-HT) from the enterochromaffin (EC) cells. The EC cells are a sub-type of enteroendocrine (EE) cells which are found among the enterocytes of the intestinal epithelium. The EC cells are responsible for the production and storage of the largest pool of 5 HT in the body. Released 5-HT can act on the intrinsic nerves and vagal endings. This review will focus on the role of 5-HT in sensory transduction and examine how the EC cell produces and releases 5-HT. We will explore recent developments that have helped to elucidate some of the proteins that allow EC cells to sense the luminal environment. Finally, we will highlight some of the findings from new studies using electrochemical techniques which allow the real-time recording of 5-HT concentrations near to the EC cell.