Epithelial-mesenchymal transition, a spectrum of states: Role in lung development, homeostasis, and disease

Dev Dyn. 2018 Mar;247(3):346-358. doi: 10.1002/dvdy.24541. Epub 2017 Jul 21.


Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) plays key roles during lung development and many lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, and pulmonary fibrosis. Here, integrating morphological observations with underlying molecular mechanisms, we highlight the functional role of EMT in lung development and injury repair, and discuss how it can contribute to pathogenesis of chronic lung disease. We discuss the evidence of manifestation of EMT and its potential driving role in COPD, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), bronchiolitis obliterans syndrome (BOS), and lung cancer, while noting that all cells need not display a full EMT in any of these contexts, i.e., often cells co-express epithelial and mesenchymal markers but do not fully convert to extracellular matrix (ECM) -producing fibroblasts. Finally, we discuss recent therapeutic attempts to restrict EMT in chronic lung disease. Developmental Dynamics 247:346-358, 2018. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Keywords: chronic pulmonary obstructive disease (COPD); epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT); hybrid epithelial/mesenchymal; idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF); lung cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition*
  • Extracellular Matrix
  • Fibroblasts
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / pathology*
  • Lung Diseases / therapy