Epithelial cells comprise the foundation for the majority of organs in the mammalian body, and are the source of approximately 90% of all human cancers. Characteristically, epithelial cells form intercellular adhesions, exhibit apical/basal polarity, and orient their mitotic spindles in the plane of the epithelial sheet. Defects in these attributes result in the tissue disorganization associated with cancer. Epithelia undergo self-renewal from stem cells, which might in some cases be the cell of origin for cancers. The PAR polarity proteins are master regulators of epithelial organization, and are closely linked to signaling pathways such as Hippo, which orchestrate proliferation and apoptosis to control organ size. 3D ex vivo culture systems can now faithfully recapitulate epithelial organ morphogenesis, providing a powerful approach to study both normal development and the initiating events in carcinogenesis.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.