Epithelial cell polarity, stem cells and cancer

Nat Rev Cancer. 2011 Dec 15;12(1):23-38. doi: 10.1038/nrc3169.


After years of extensive scientific discovery much has been learned about the networks that regulate epithelial homeostasis. Loss of expression or functional activity of cell adhesion and cell polarity proteins (including the PAR, crumbs (CRB) and scribble (SCRIB) complexes) is intricately related to advanced stages of tumour progression and invasiveness. But the key roles of these proteins in crosstalk with the Hippo and liver kinase B1 (LKB1)-AMPK pathways and in epithelial function and proliferation indicate that they may also be associated with the early stages of tumorigenesis. For example, deregulation of adhesion and polarity proteins can cause misoriented cell divisions and increased self-renewal of adult epithelial stem cells. In this Review, we highlight some advances in the understanding of how loss of epithelial cell polarity contributes to tumorigenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / physiology
  • Cell Polarity*
  • Drosophila Proteins / physiology
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology*
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / physiology
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology
  • Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / physiology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / physiology


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • PARD3 protein, human
  • SCRIB protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • STK11 protein, human
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • hpo protein, Drosophila