Merck Manual

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Overview of The Exocrine Pancreas

By

Jörg M. Steiner

, DrMedVet, PhD, DACVIM, DECVIM-CA, AGAF, Gastrointestinal Laboratory, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Texas A & M University

Last full review/revision Oct 2013 | Content last modified Oct 2013

The pancreas has both endocrine and exocrine functions. The exocrine pancreas is made up of pancreatic acinar cells and a duct system that opens into the proximal duodenum. Pancreatic acinar cells synthesize and secrete digestive enzymes (eg, amylase, lipase, and others) or inactive proenzymes, and zymogens (eg, trypsinogen, chymotrypsinogen, proelastase, prophospholipase, and others) of digestive enzymes, which are essential for the digestion of dietary components such as proteins, triglycerides, and complex carbohydrates. The exocrine pancreas also secretes other essential substances, such as large amounts of bicarbonate, which buffers gastric acid, intrinsic factor, which is needed for cobalamin absorption, and colipase, which is an essential cofactor for pancreatic lipase.

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