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Gastrointestinal defense mechanisms


Purpose of review

To summarize and illuminate the recent findings regarding gastroduodenal mucosal defense mechanisms and the specific biomolecules involved in regulating this process, such as glucagon-like peptides (GLPs).

Recent findings

There has been a growing interest in luminal nutrient chemosensing and its physiological effects throughout the digestive system. From the ingestion of food in the oral cavity to the processing and absorption of nutrients in the intestines, nutrient chemosensing receptors signal the production and release of numerous bioactive peptides from enteroendocrine cells, such as the proglucagon-derived peptides. There has been a major emphasis on two proglucagon-derived peptides, namely GLP-1 and GLP-2, due to their apparent beneficial effect on gut structure, function, and on metabolic processes. As an incretin, GLP-1 not only enhances the effect and release of insulin on pancreatic βcells but also has been implicated in having trophic effects on the intestinal epithelium. In addition, GLP-2, the other major proglucagon-derived peptide, has potent intestinotrophic effects, such as increasing the rate of mucosal stem cell proliferation, mucosal blood flow, and fluid absorption, as well as augmenting the rate of duodenal bicarbonate secretion to improve gastric mucosal health and longevity.


Understanding the mechanisms underlying nutrient chemosensing and how it relates to GLP release can further elucidate how the gut functions in response to cellular changes and disturbances. Furthermore, a more in-depth comprehension of GLP release and its tissue-specific effects will help improve the utility of GLP-1 and GLP-2 receptor agonists in clinical settings. This, in turn, should help patients suffering from intestinal failure, malabsorption, and mucosal injury.

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