Epithelial tubes are a fundamental tissue across the metazoan phyla and provide an essential functional component of many of the major organs. Recent work in flies and mammals has begun to elucidate the cellular mechanisms driving the formation, elongation, and branching morphogenesis of epithelial tubes during development. Both forward and reverse genetic techniques have begun to identify critical molecular regulators for these processes and have revealed the conserved role of key pathways in regulating the growth and elaboration of tubular networks. In this review, we discuss the developmental programs driving the formation of branched epithelial networks, with specific emphasis on the trachea and salivary gland of Drosophila melanogaster and the mammalian lung, mammary gland, kidney, and salivary gland. We both highlight similarities in the development of these organs and attempt to identify tissue and organism specific strategies. Finally, we briefly consider how our understanding of the regulation of proliferation, apicobasal polarity, and epithelial motility during branching morphogenesis can be applied to understand the pathologic dysregulation of these same processes during metastatic cancer progression.
Copyright 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.