Notch signaling and diseases: an evolutionary journey from a simple beginning to complex outcomes

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2008 Sep;1782(9):489-97. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2008.06.008. Epub 2008 Jun 24.


Notch signaling pathway regulates a wide variety of cellular processes during development and it also plays a crucial role in human diseases. This important link is firmly established in cancer, since a rare T-ALL-associated genetic lesion has been initially reported to result in deletion of Notch1 ectodomain and constitutive activation of its intracellular region. Interestingly, the cellular response to Notch signaling can be extremely variable depending on the cell type and activation context. Notch signaling triggers signals implicated in promoting carcinogenesis and autoimmune diseases, whereas it can also sustain responses that are critical to suppress carcinogenesis and to negatively regulate immune response. However, Notch signaling induces all these effects via an apparently simple signal transduction pathway, diversified into a complex network along evolution from Drosophila to mammals. Indeed, an explanation of this paradox comes from a number of evidences accumulated during the last few years, which dissected the intrinsic canonical and non-canonical components of the Notch pathway as well as several modulatory extrinsic signaling events. The identification of these signals has shed light onto the mechanisms whereby Notch and other pathways collaborate to induce a particular cellular phenotype. In this article, we review the role of Notch signaling in cells as diverse as T lymphocytes and epithelial cells of the epidermis, with the main focus on understanding the mechanisms of Notch versatility.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Disease*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Receptors, Notch / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Receptors, Notch