The amazing complexity of insect midgut cells: types, peculiarities, and functions.


Department of Biotechnology and Life Sciences, University of Insubria, Varese, Italy. [Email]


The insect midgut epithelium represents an interface between the internal and the external environment and it is the almost unique epithelial tissue by which these arthropods acquire nutrients. This epithelium is indeed able to produce digestive enzymes and to support vectorial transport of small organic nutrients, ions, and water. Moreover, it plays a key role in the defense against pathogenic microorganisms and in shaping gut microbiota. Another important midgut function is the ability to produce signaling molecules that regulate its own physiology and the activity of other organs. The two main mature cell types present in the midgut of all insects, i.e., columnar and endocrine cells, are responsible for these functions. In addition, stem cells, located at the base of the midgut epithelium, ensure the growth and renewal of the midgut during development and after injury. In insects belonging to specific orders, midgut physiology is deeply conditioned by the presence of unique cell types, i.e., goblet and copper cells, which confer peculiar features to this organ. This review reports current knowledge on the cells that form the insect midgut epithelium, focusing attention on their morphological and functional features. Notwithstanding the apparent structural simplicity of this organ, the properties of the cells make the midgut a key player in insect development and homeostasis.


Columnar cell,Copper cell,Endocrine cell,Goblet cell,Insect midgut,Midgut lumen pH,Stem cell,

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