How cells change their phenotype

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2002 Mar;3(3):187-94. doi: 10.1038/nrm761.


Recent attention has focused on the remarkable ability of adult stem cells to produce differentiated cells from embryologically unrelated tissues. This phenomenon is an example of metaplasia and shows that embryological commitments can be reversed or erased under certain circumstances. In some cases, even fully differentiated cells can change their phenotype (transdifferentiation). This review examines recently discovered cases of metaplasia, and speculates on the potential molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie the switches, and their significance to developmental biology and medicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Humans
  • Metaplasia / etiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Phenotype
  • Stem Cells / cytology*