Co-ordinated gastrointestinal function is the result of integrated communication between the enteric nervous system (ENS) and “effector” cells in the gastrointestinal tract. Unlike smooth muscle cells, interstitial cells, and the vast majority of cell types residing in the mucosa, enteric neurons and glia are not generated within the gut. Instead, they arise from neural crest cells that migrate into and colonise the developing gastrointestinal tract. Although they are “later” arrivals into the developing gut, enteric neural crest-derived cells (ENCCs) respond to many of the same secreted signalling molecules as the “resident” epithelial and mesenchymal cells, and several factors that control the development of smooth muscle cells, interstitial cells and epithelial cells also regulate ENCCs. Much progress has been made towards understanding the migration of ENCCs along the gastrointestinal tract and their differentiation into neurons and glia. However, our understanding of how enteric neurons begin to communicate with each other and extend their neurites out of the developing plexus layers to innervate the various cell types lining the concentric layers of the gastrointestinal tract is only beginning. It is critical for postpartum survival that the gastrointestinal tract and its enteric circuitry are sufficiently mature to cope with the influx of nutrients and their absorption that occurs shortly after birth. Subsequently, colonisation of the gut by immune cells and microbiota during postnatal development has an important impact that determines the ultimate outline of the intrinsic neural networks of the gut. In this review, we describe the integrated development of the ENS and its target cells.
Hao, M. M., Foong, J. P. P., Bornstein, J. C., Li, Z. L., Vanden Berghe, P., & Boesmans, W. (2016, September 15). Enteric nervous system assembly: Functional integration within the developing gut. Developmental Biology. Academic Press Inc. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2016.05.030