The Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule or EpCAM is a well-known marker highly expressed in carcinomas and showing a strong correlation with poor cancer prognosis. While its name relates to its proposed function as a cell adhesion molecule, EpCAM has been shown to have various signalling functions. In particular, it has been identified as an important positive regulator of cell adhesion and migration, playing an essential role in embryonic morphogenesis as well as intestinal homeostasis. This activity is not due to its putative adhesive function, but rather to its ability to repress myosin contractility by impinging on a PKC signalling cascade. This mechanism confers EpCAM the unique property of favouring tissue plasticity. I review here the currently available data, comment on possible connections with other properties of EpCAM, and discuss the potential significance in the context of cancer invasion.
Keywords: Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule; TACSD; Trop1; Trop2; actomyosin contractility; cell–cell adhesion; cell–matrix adhesion; cortical tension; intercellular migration; metastasis.