The vertebrate small intestine requires an enormous surface area to effectively absorb nutrients from food. Morphological adaptations required to establish this extensive surface include generation of an extremely long tube and convolution of the absorptive surface of the tube into villi and microvilli. In this Review, we discuss recent findings regarding the morphogenetic and molecular processes required for intestinal tube elongation and surface convolution, examine shared and unique aspects of these processes in different species, relate these processes to known human maladies that compromise absorptive function and highlight important questions for future research.
The authors declare no competing or financial interests.
Work in our labs receives funding from the National Institutes of Health [R01 DK089933 and F30 DK100125]; American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition Rhoads Research Foundation; University of Michigan Gastrointestinal Peptide Center Pilot Feasibility Award [funded through an NIDDK/NIH Research Core Grant [P30 DK034933]. Deposited in PMC for release after 12 months.