Endocrine cells of the gastric mucosa

E. Solcia, C. Capella, G. Vassallo, R. Buffa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The presence of endocrine cells in the gastrointestinal epithelium is a very old problem. The endocrine character of the chromaffin cells, observed by Haldenhain, was proved by Masson in 1914 and since that time, especially in the era of histochemistry and immunohistochemistry, its importance has been dealt with intensively. The author gives a summary of the work carried out till now. Seven kinds of endocrine cells were identified ultrastructurally in the gastric mucosa of the dog, and 6 kinds in man and in some mammalian species. Light and electron microscopical, amino and immunohistochemical methods were used. Biochemical and functional studies proved only 4 endocrine products, namely 5 HT, gastrin, histamine and gastroglucagon were proved. The endocrine cells of the intestine may receive the stimuli equally from the lumen, from the blood and the nervous system. The hormones produced by the cells may locally affect the other cells or by way of the circulation may affect the different parts of the intestines or the digestive glands. With regard to the origin of the cells entodermal and neural views are known, whilst functionally the cells may play a part in the endocrine function of the pancreas and the intestines. The morphological manifestation of the function is not known. The paper discusses the functional connection of the intestine's endocrine cells with other endocrine cells. The endocrine cells found in the intestine are distinguished as S, J, K and L cells. The S cell secretes secretin, the hormone of the J cell is not identified and the K cell resembling the A cell secretes 'gastric inhibitory peptides'. The endocrine cells of the gastric mucosa are situated at the basal part of the glands, i.e. in the pylorus, though they may reach the lumen. The secretion granules are situated at the basal part of the cells. The paper deals with the argentaffin or EC cells; with the 5 HT method the granules are traceable and electron microscopically a heterogenous inner structure can be observed. These cells are found spread in the intestine, chiefly in the mucosa of the small and large intestines. They are supposed to be related to the peristaltic movement. The G cell in the pylorus may be involved in secretion of gastrin. This cell is missing in the fundus of the stomach. The cells are stimulated from the lumen by several factors. Facts are also presented on the influence of the blood and the nerves. The cells contain empty vesicular granules and reach the lumen showing microvilli. In case of ulcus duodeni (hyperacidity) the cells are more distinct. Tumors with G cell are also described, it produces insulin, glucagon, amines, and ACTH. ECl cell showing pseudocholinesterase contains vascular granules with argentophil cor. There are few on the fundus, being mostly located in the neck of the glands in close connection with the basal membrane and with the blood vessels and nerves situated there. The production of histamine is probable. Some authors identify the D cells with the D cells of the pancreas islets showing similar developmental behaviour; their function,however, is not known. They are difficult to separate from these cells. Big and slightly osmiophilic granules are characteristic of them. They are dispersed and small in number, though they are to be found also in the glands of Brunner. On the base of the size of the granules D1 cells can also be differentiated, characterised by smaller granules, but their function is not known. A and X cells can be differentiated too according to the behaviour of the granules; their function is also under discussion. Functional disorder of the intestinal hormones influencing the digestion, which is connected with those cells with pathological behaviour, may cause disorder of different intestinal activities, e.g. peptic ulcer,disorder of resorption, pancreatitis and the deterioration as a consequence of surgical intervention. (Toro - Budapest)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-286
Number of pages64
JournalInternational Review of Cytology
VolumeNo. 42
Publication statusPublished - 1975

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Histology


Dive into the research topics of 'Endocrine cells of the gastric mucosa'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this