Epithelial-mesenchymal Transition and Cell Invasion

Toxicol Res. 2010 Dec;26(4):245-52. doi: 10.5487/TR.2010.26.4.245.


Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a complex process in which epithelial cells acquire the characteristics of invasive mesenchymal cells. EMT has been implicated in cancer progression and metastasis as well as the formation of many tissues and organs during development. Epithelial cells undergoing EMT lose cell-cell adhesion structures and polarity, and rearrange their cytoskeletons. Several oncogenic pathways such as transforming growth factor (TGF) -β, Wnt, and Notch signaling pathways, have been shown to induce EMT. These pathways have activated transcription factors including Snail, Slug, and the ZEB family which work as transcriptional repressors of E-cadherin, thereby making epithelial cells motile and resistant to apoptosis. Mounting evidence shows that EMT is associated with cell invasion and tumor progression.In this review, we summarize the characteristic features of EMT, pathways leading to EMT, and the role of EMT in cell invasion. Three topics are addressed in this review: (1) Definition of EMT, (2) Signaling pathways leading to EMT, (3) Role of EMT in cell invasion. Understanding the role of EMT in cell invasion will provide valuable information for establishing strategies to develop anti-metastatic therapeutics which modulate malignant cellular processes mediated by EMT.

Keywords: EMT; Notch; TGF-β; Wnt; cell invasion.

Publication types

  • Review