Necrotizing enterocolitis is a disease entity with multiple proposed pathways of pathogenesis. Various combinations of these risk factors, perhaps based on genetic predisposition, possibly lead to the mucosal and epithelial injury that is the hallmark of NEC. Intestinal epithelial integrity is controlled by a tightly regulated balance between proliferation and differentiation of epithelium from intestinal epithelial stem cells and cellular loss by apoptosis. various signaling pathways play a key role in creating and maintaining this balance. The aim of this review article is to outline intestinal epithelial barrier development and structure and the impact of these inflammatory signaling and regulatory pathways as they pertain to the pathogenesis of NEC. © 2014 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.