Cellular mechanisms regulating epithelial morphogenesis and cancer invasion.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Current opinion in cell biology, Volume 22, Issue 5, p.640-50 (2010)


Animals, EPITHELIUM, Humans, Models, Biological, MORPHOGENESIS, Neoplasms


The cellular mechanisms driving mammalian epithelial morphogenesis are of significant fundamental and practical interest. Historically, these processes have been difficult to study directly, owing to the opacity and relative inaccessibility of mammalian tissues. Recent experimental advances in timelapse imaging and in 3D organotypic culture have enabled direct observation of epithelial morphogenesis. In the mammary gland, branching morphogenesis is observed to proceed through a novel form of collective epithelial migration. The active unit of morphogenesis is a multilayered epithelium with reduced apico-basal polarity, within which cells rearranged vigorously. From within this multilayered state, new ducts initiate and elongate into the matrix without leading cellular extensions or dedicated leaders. We discuss the implications of these findings on our understanding of epithelial morphogenesis in other organs and in cancer progression.