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      The epithelial–mesenchymal transition: new insights in signaling, development, and disease

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          The conversion of an epithelial cell to a mesenchymal cell is critical to metazoan embryogenesis and a defining structural feature of organ development. Current interest in this process, which is described as an epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT), stems from its developmental importance and its involvement in several adult pathologies. Interest and research in EMT are currently at a high level, as seen by the attendance at the recent EMT meeting in Vancouver, Canada (October 1–3, 2005). The meeting, which was hosted by The EMT International Association, was the second international EMT meeting, the first being held in Port Douglas, Queensland, Australia in October 2003. The EMT International Association was formed in 2002 to provide an international body for those interested in EMT and the reverse process, mesenchymal–epithelial transition, and, most importantly, to bring together those working on EMT in development, cancer, fibrosis, and pathology. These themes continued during the recent meeting in Vancouver.

          Discussion at the Vancouver meeting spanned several areas of research, including signaling pathway activation of EMT and the transcription factors and gene targets involved. Also covered in detail was the basic cell biology of EMT and its role in cancer and fibrosis, as well as the identification of new markers to facilitate the observation of EMT in vivo. This is particularly important because the potential contribution of EMT during neoplasia is the subject of vigorous scientific debate (Tarin, D., E.W. Thompson, and D.F. Newgreen. 2005. Cancer Res. 65:5996–6000; Thompson, E.W., D.F. Newgreen, and D. Tarin. 2005. Cancer Res. 65:5991–5995).

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          Most cited references 34

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          Tensional homeostasis and the malignant phenotype.

          Tumors are stiffer than normal tissue, and tumors have altered integrins. Because integrins are mechanotransducers that regulate cell fate, we asked whether tissue stiffness could promote malignant behavior by modulating integrins. We found that tumors are rigid because they have a stiff stroma and elevated Rho-dependent cytoskeletal tension that drives focal adhesions, disrupts adherens junctions, perturbs tissue polarity, enhances growth, and hinders lumen formation. Matrix stiffness perturbs epithelial morphogenesis by clustering integrins to enhance ERK activation and increase ROCK-generated contractility and focal adhesions. Contractile, EGF-transformed epithelia with elevated ERK and Rho activity could be phenotypically reverted to tissues lacking focal adhesions if Rho-generated contractility or ERK activity was decreased. Thus, ERK and Rho constitute part of an integrated mechanoregulatory circuit linking matrix stiffness to cytoskeletal tension through integrins to regulate tissue phenotype.
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            Opinion: migrating cancer stem cells - an integrated concept of malignant tumour progression.

            The dissemination of tumour cells is the prerequisite of metastases and is correlated with a loss of epithelial differentiation and the acquisition of a migratory phenotype, a hallmark of malignant tumour progression. A stepwise, irreversible accumulation of genetic alterations is considered to be the responsible driving force. But strikingly, metastases of most carcinomas recapitulate the organization of their primary tumours. Although current models explain distinct and important aspects of carcinogenesis, each alone can not explain the sum of the cellular changes apparent in human cancer progression. We suggest an extended, integrated model that is consistent with all aspects of human tumour progression - the 'migrating cancer stem (MCS)-cell' concept.
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              Regulation of cadherin-mediated adhesion in morphogenesis.

              Cadherin cell-adhesion proteins mediate many facets of tissue morphogenesis. The dynamic regulation of cadherins in response to various extracellular signals controls cell sorting, cell rearrangements and cell movements. Cadherins are regulated at the cell surface by an inside-out signalling mechanism that is analogous to the integrins in platelets and leukocytes. Signal-transduction pathways impinge on the catenins (cytoplasmic cadherin-associated proteins), which transduce changes across the membrane to alter the state of the cadherin adhesive bond.

                Author and article information

                J Cell Biol
                The Journal of Cell Biology
                The Rockefeller University Press
                27 March 2006
                : 172
                : 7
                : 973-981
                [1 ]Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Immunology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6N5, Canada
                [2 ]Department of Biochemistry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia V57 1L3, Canada
                [3 ]British Columbia Cancer and Research Centre at the British Columbia Cancer Agency, Vancouver, British Columbia V57 1L3, Canada
                [4 ]Department of Medicine, Center for Matrix Biology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and [5 ]Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215
                [6 ]Harvard–Massachusetts Institute of Technology Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139
                [7 ]Department of Surgery, University of Melbourne, St. Vincent's Hospital, Fitzroy, 3065, Australia
                [8 ]St. Vincent's Institute of Medical Research, Fitzroy, 3065, Australia
                Author notes

                Correspondence to Shoukat Dedhar: sdedhar@

                Copyright © 2006, The Rockefeller University Press

                Cell biology


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