Enterochromaffin cell

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Not to be confused with Enterochromaffin-like cell.
Enterochromaffin cell
Latin endocrinocytus EC
MeSH Enterochromaffin+Cells
Code TH H3.
Anatomical terminology

Enterochromaffin (EC) cells, or "Kulchitsky cells", are a type of enteroendocrine and neuroendocrine cell[1] occurring in the epithelia lining the lumen of the digestive tract and the respiratory tract that release serotonin.


In the human gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the EC cells are distributed widely in the epithelium of the stomach,[2] small bowel and colon.


They use the rate-limiting enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase-1 (TPH-1) to synthesize serotonin and contain about 90% of the body's stores of serotonin (5-HT).[3]

In the gastrointestinal tract, 5-HT is important in response to chemical, mechanical[4] or pathological stimuli in the lumen. It activates both secretory and peristaltic reflexes, and activates vagal afferents (via 5-HT3 receptors) that signal to the brain (important in the generation of nausea). Ondansetron is an antagonist of the 5-HT3 receptor and is an effective anti-emetic.


The enterochromaffin cells are derived from the same stem cells as the rest of the epithelium, and are not derived from the migratory neural crest source that provides the enteric nervous system.[5]


They are called "entero"[6] meaning related to the gut and "chromaffin" because of a chromium salt reaction that they share with chromaffin cells of the adrenal medulla (adrenal glands).[7]

"Enterochromaffin-like cells"[edit]

Another population of chromaffin cells is found only in the stomach wall, called enterochromaffin-like cells (ECL). They look like EC cells but do not contain 5-HT.

ECL cells respond to gastrin released by G-cells and they release histamine, which will stimulate the parietal cells to produce gastric acid.


The neuroendocrine progenitors to enterochromaffin cells in the bronchial epithelium have been implicated in the origin of small cell lung cancer.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Enterochromaffin Cells at the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
  2. ^ Simonsson, M. et al. (1988) Endocrine Cells in the Human Oxyntic Mucosa: A Histochemical Study. Scand J Gastro. 23(9):1089-99.
  3. ^ Josef Donnerer; Fred Lembeck (2006). The chemical languages of the nervous system: history of scientists and substances. Karger Publishers. pp. 161–. ISBN 978-3-8055-8004-5. Retrieved 23 May 2011. 
  4. ^ Bulbring, E., Crema, A., The release of 5-hydroxytryptamine in relation to pressure exerted on the intestinal mucosa. J Physiol 1959;146(1):18-28.
  5. ^ Thompson M, Fleming KA, Evans DJ, Fundele R, Surani MA, Wright NA (October 1990). "Gastric endocrine cells share a clonal origin with other gut cell lineages". Development 110 (2): 477–81. PMID 2133551. 
  6. ^ Entero- definition - Medical Dictionary definitions of popular medical terms easily defined on MedTerms
  7. ^ 1516961798 at GPnotebook
  8. ^ eMedicine - Lung Cancer, Small Cell : Article by Abid Irshad