Neuroendocrine Tumors of the Gastrointestinal Tract

  • Hala El-Zimaity
Part of the Atlas of Anatomic Pathology book series (AAP)


The gut has been described as “the largest endocrine organ in the body” [1]. Intestinal endocrine cells are scattered in the mucosa between gut mucosal cells at the base of crypts, but they can be found higher in the crypt. The enterochromaffin (EC) cells, the prototype for this cell, are the largest endocrine cell population in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and are characterized by fine red basal (subnuclear) granules. These cells were called EC cells because of their ability to bind chromium salts [1]; they also were called argentaffin cells [1] because of their capacity to bind and reduce silver ions [1]. The endocrine population of the large bowel is generally less diverse than that of the small intestine (Table 5.1). The EC cells are the most frequent endocrine cell subtype in the colon and rectum. Other cells, such as L-cells, occur from the duodenum to the rectum but are rarely found proximal to the terminal ileum. They secrete glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) that stimulates insulin and suppresses glucagon secretion, inhibits gastric emptying, and reduces appetite and food intake. Within the large bowel, their frequency increases from proximal to distal, being most concentrated in the rectum (a frequent site of large bowel L-cell neuroendocrine tumors [NETs]) [2]. Understanding the normal distribution of endocrine cells is helpful because it correlates with the preferred primary sites of specific NETs with some exceptions [3].


Neuroendocrine Endocrine Gastrointestinal Carcinoid 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hala El-Zimaity
    • 1
  1. 1.Dynacare LaboratoriesBramptonCanada

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