Oxygen regulates epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition: insights into molecular mechanisms and relevance to disease

Kidney Int. 2009 Sep;76(5):492-9. doi: 10.1038/ki.2009.222. Epub 2009 Jun 17.


Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a developmentally vital, molecularly complex cellular process by which epithelial cells lose apico-basal polarity and cell-cell contact, become motile, and acquire mesenchymal characteristics. Under pathophysiological conditions EMT has a central role in cancer progression and metastasis, and has been associated with fibrotic disorders. Microenvironmental changes such as alterations in oxygen levels and activation of hypoxic signaling through hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) are emerging as important triggers and modulators of EMT. Recent insights into potential molecular mechanisms underlying oxygen-dependent regulation of this process and their relevance to disease are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Communication
  • Cell Polarity
  • Chronic Disease
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / metabolism
  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit / metabolism
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology
  • Mesoderm / pathology*
  • Oxygen / pharmacology*
  • Repressor Proteins / physiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Twist-Related Protein 1 / physiology


  • Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Twist-Related Protein 1
  • Oxygen