The enteric nervous system has been studied thus far as an isolated unit. As researchers probe deeper into the function of this system, it is evident that the neural network stretches beyond enteric neurons. It is formed by both intrinsic and extrinsic neurons innervating the gut, enteric glia, and innervated sensory epithelial cells, such as enteroendocrine cells. This Review series summarizes recent knowledge on function and disease of nerves, glia, and sensory epithelial cells of the gut in eight distinctive articles. The timing and growing knowledge for each individual field calls for an appropriate term encompassing the entire system. We call this neuronal ensemble the “gut connectome” and summarize the work from a food sensory perspective.
Diego V. Bohórquez, Rodger A. Liddle
The gut connectome: built for sensing food.
Top left: A sensory enteroendocrine cell (EEC) in the gut epithelium can be seen extending a neuropod to connect with an underlying nerve. Bottom left: Enteric glia underneath the epithelium extend processes to contact the neuropod of an enteroendocrine cell. Right: The innervation of enteroendocrine cells brings the possibility of afferent (gut-to-brain) signaling and possible efferent (brain-to-gut; not shown) signaling, which would allow the gut to compute sensory information from food to modulate whole-body metabolism and behaviors such as hunger and satiety. Figures adapted from