Progressive polarity loss and luminal collapse disrupt tissue organization in carcinoma

Genes Dev. 2017 Aug 1;31(15):1573-1587. doi: 10.1101/gad.300566.117. Epub 2017 Sep 8.


Epithelial cancers (carcinoma) account for 80%-90% of all cancers. The development of carcinoma is associated with disrupted epithelial organization and solid ductal structures. The mechanisms underlying the morphological development of carcinoma are poorly understood, but it is thought that loss of cell polarity is an early event. Here we report the characterization of the development of human breast lesions leading to carcinoma. We identified a unique mechanism that generates solid ducts in carcinoma through progressive loss of polarity and collapse of the luminal architecture. This program initiates with asymmetric divisions of polarized cells that generate a stratified epithelium containing both polarized and depolarized cells. Stratified regions form cords that penetrate into the lumen, subdividing it into polarized secondary lumina. The secondary lumina then collapse with a concomitant decrease in RhoA and myosin II activity at the apical membrane and ultimately lose apical-basal polarity. By restoring RhoA activity in mice, ducts maintained lumen and cell polarity. Notably, disrupted tissue architecture through luminal collapse was reversible, and ducts with a lumen were re-established after oncogene suppression in vivo. This reveals a novel and common mechanism that contributes to carcinoma development by progressively disrupting cell and tissue organization.

Keywords: breast cancer; cancer progression; duct; epithelial; morphogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinogenesis*
  • Carcinoma / pathology*
  • Cell Membrane
  • Cell Polarity / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Myosin Type II / metabolism
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • rhoA GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism


  • Myosin Type II
  • rhoA GTP-Binding Protein