Digestive System > Stomach

Enterochromaffin-Like (ECL) Cells

Enterochromaffin-like or ECL cells are a distinctive type of neuroendocrine cell in the gastric mucosa underlying the epithelium. They are most prevalent in the acid-secreting regions of the stomach.

ECL cells synthesize and secrete histamine in response to stimulation by the hormones gastrin and pituitary adenylyl cyclase-activating peptide. Gastrin itself is secreted by cells in the epithelium of the stomach, but travels to ECL cells via the blood. Together, histamine and gastrin are primary positive regulators of acid secretion from the parietal cell. ECL cells also secrete pancreastatin and probably are the source of one or more other peptide hormones and growth factors. ECL cells are readily identified in histologic sections stained by silver impregnation.

Longer term stimulation of ECL cells by gastrin also stimulates significant proliferation of ECL cells. Such hypertrophy of ECL cells is particularly evident in patients with gastrin-secreting tumors. ECL-origin tumors, or carcinoids, are commonly found in humans and certain rodents. They are clearly associated with hypergastrinemic states and, at least in certain rodent models, are readily induced by long term therapy with drugs that block production of gastric acid.

References and Reviews

Stomach: Introduction and Index

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