Epithelial-mesenchymal transition - activating transcription factors - multifunctional regulators in cancer

World J Stem Cells. 2013 Oct 26;5(4):188-95. doi: 10.4252/wjsc.v5.i4.188.


The process of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), first noted during embryogenesis, has also been reported in tumor formation and leads to the development of metastatic growth. It is a naturally occurring process that drives the transformation of adhesive, non-mobile epithelial like cells into mobile cells with a mesenchymal phenotype that have ability to migrate to distant anatomical sites. Activating complex network of embryonic signaling pathways, including Wnt, Notch, hedgehog and transforming growth factor-β pathways, lead to the upregulation of EMT activating transcription factors, crucial for normal tissue development and maintenance. However, deregulation of tightly regulated pathways affecting the process of EMT has been recently investigated in various human cancers. Given the critical role of EMT in metastatic tumor formation, better understanding of the mechanistic regulation provides new opportunities for the development of potential therapeutic targets of clinical importance.

Keywords: Cancer; Embryonic signaling pathways; Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition; Metastatic growth; Transcription factors.