Plasticity of the brush border -
the yin and yang of intestinal homeostasis



Delacour D, Salomon J, Robine S, Louvard D.



Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol.

2016 Feb 3


The brush border on the apical surface of enterocytes is a highly specialized structure well-adapted for efficient digestion and nutrient transport, whilst at the same time providing a protective barrier for the intestinal mucosa. The brush border is constituted of a densely ordered array of microvilli, protrusions of the plasma membrane, which are supported by actin-based microfilaments and interacting proteins and anchored in an apical network of actomyosin and intermediate filaments, the so-called terminal web. The highly dynamic, specialized apical domain is both an essential partner for the gut microbiota and an efficient signalling platform that enables adaptation to physiological stimuli from the external and internal milieu. Nevertheless, genetic alterations or various pathological stresses, such as infection, inflammation, and mechanical or nutritional alterations, can jeopardize this equilibrium and compromise intestinal functions. Long-time neglected, the intestinal brush-border shall be enlightening again as the central actor of the complex but essential intestinal homeostasis. Here, we review the processes and components involved in brush border organization and discuss pathological mechanisms that can induce brush border defects and their physiological consequences.