Purpose of review
The gut barrier serves as the primary interface between the environment and host in terms of surface area and complexity. Luminal chemosensing is a term used to describe how small molecules in the gut lumen interact with the host through surface receptors or via transport into the subepithelial space. In this review, we have summarized recent advances in the understanding of the luminal chemosensory system in the gastroduodenal epithelium consisting of enterocytes, enteroendocrine, and tuft cells, with particular emphasis on how chemosensing affects mucosal protective responses and the metabolic syndrome.
Recent single-cell RNA sequencing provides detailed cell type-specific expression of chemosensory receptors and other bioactive molecules as well as cell lineages; some are similar to lingual taste cells whereas some are gut specific. Gut luminal chemosensing is not only important for the local or remote regulation of gut function, but also contributes to the systemic regulation of metabolism, energy balance, and food intake. We will discuss the chemosensory mechanisms of the proximal intestine, in particular to gastric acid, with a focus on the cell types and receptors involved in chemosensing, with emphasis on the rare chemosensory cells termed tuft cells. We will also discuss the chemosensory functions of intestinal ectoenzymes and bacterial components (e.g., lipopolysaccharide) as well as how they affect mucosal function through altering the gut–hormonal–neural axis.
Recent updates in luminal chemosensing by different chemosensory cells have provided new possibilities for identifying novel molecular targets for the treatment of mucosal injury, metabolic disorders, and abnormal visceral sensation.