A human three-dimensional cell line model allows the study of dynamic and reversible epithelial-mesenchymal and mesenchymal-epithelial transition that underpins colorectal carcinogenesis

Cells Tissues Organs. 2007;185(1-3):20-8. doi: 10.1159/000101299.


Developmental morphogenesis relies on cell transitions between epithelial and mesenchymal states. Colorectal cancer (CRC) progression can also be described as 'morphogenesis' as it involves epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), whereby tumour cells become more invasive and metastatic. Subsequently, the disseminated tumour cells must undergo a reverse transition (MET), as the pathology of most primary tumours is re-capitulated by their established metastases. Disseminated tumour cells can remain 'dormant' for many years. Consequently, tumour initiation at the secondary site is the rate-limiting step in metastasis. Metastasis is governed by cell intrinsic and extrinsic (microenvironment) factors, thus much of what we know about metastasis is drawn from in vivo model systems. However, the molecular mechanisms controlling release from 'dormancy' are still largely unknown due to the complexity this presents for the in vivo situation. An in vitro morphogenesis culture system would present a great advantage. To this end, we have established a unique model of CRC morphogenesis, using a variant of the human cell line LIM1863 (LIM1863-Mph). In this model system LIM1863-Mph cells show plasticity between epithelial and mesenchymal states. The transitions are reversible and bear the phenotypic hallmarks of CRC morphogenesis. Importantly, we have demonstrated a pivotal role for FZD7 in these phenotype transitions, implicating Wnt signalling in orchestrating CRC morphogenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / ultrastructure
  • Cytokines / pharmacology
  • Disease Progression
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology*
  • Epithelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Epithelium / metabolism*
  • Frizzled Receptors / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Mesoderm / metabolism
  • Mesoderm / pathology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • FZD7 protein, human
  • Frizzled Receptors
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Wnt Proteins