Enteric glia are important components of the enteric nervous system (ENS) and also form an extensive network in the mucosa of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Initially regarded as passive support cells, it is now clear that they are actively involved as cellular integrators in the control of motility and epithelial barrier function. Enteric glia form a cellular and molecular bridge between enteric nerves, enteroendocrine cells, immune cells, and epithelial cells, depending on their location. This Review highlights the role of enteric glia in GI motility disorders and in barrier and defense functions of the gut, notably in states of inflammation. It also discusses the involvement of enteric glia in neurological diseases that involve the GI tract.
Keith A. Sharkey