Paneth cells: Maestros of the small intestinal crypts

Hans C. Clevers, Charles L Bevins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

357 Scopus citations


Paneth cells are highly specialized epithelial cells of the small intestine, where they coordinate many physiological functions. First identified more than a century ago on the basis of their readily discernible secretory granules by routine histology, these cells are located at the base of the crypts of Lieberkühn, tiny invaginations that line the mucosal surface all along the small intestine. Investigations over the past several decades determined that these cells synthesize and secrete substantial quantities of antimicrobial peptides and proteins. More recent studies have determined that these antimicrobial molecules are key mediators of host-microbe interactions, including homeostatic balance with colonizing microbiota and innate immune protection from enteric pathogens. Perhaps more intriguing, Paneth cells secrete factors that help sustain and modulate the epithelial stem and progenitor cells that cohabitate in the crypts and rejuvenate the small intestinal epithelium. Dysfunction of Paneth cell biology contributes to the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory bowel disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-311
Number of pages23
JournalAnnual Review of Physiology
StatePublished - Feb 10 2013


  • Antimicrobial peptide
  • Defensin
  • Innate immunity
  • Stem cell niche

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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