Cell polarity as a regulator of cancer cell behavior plasticity

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2012;28:599-625. doi: 10.1146/annurev-cellbio-092910-154244. Epub 2012 Aug 6.


Cell polarization is an evolutionarily conserved process that facilitates asymmetric distribution of organelles and proteins and that is modified dynamically during physiological processes such as cell division, migration, and morphogenesis. The plasticity with which cells change their behavior and phenotype in response to cell intrinsic and extrinsic cues is an essential feature of normal physiology. In disease states such as cancer, cells lose their ability to behave normally in response to physiological cues. A molecular understanding of mechanisms that alter the behavior of cancer cells is limited. Cell polarity proteins are a recognized class of molecules that can receive and interpret both intrinsic and extrinsic signals to modulate cell behavior. In this review, we discuss how cell polarity proteins regulate a diverse array of biological processes and how they can contribute to alterations in the behavior of cancer cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Polarity*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Morphogenesis
  • Multiprotein Complexes / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Phenotype
  • Signal Transduction


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Multiprotein Complexes