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Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 67, Issue 15, pp 2605–2618 | Cite as

Molecular signaling of the epithelial to mesenchymal transition in generating and maintaining cancer stem cells

  • Gaoliang OuyangEmail author
  • Zhe Wang
  • Xiaoguang Fang
  • Jia Liu
  • Chaoyong James Yang
Review

Abstract

The epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a highly conserved cellular program that allows polarized, well-differentiated epithelial cells to convert to unpolarized, motile mesenchymal cells. EMT is critical for appropriate embryogenesis and plays a crucial role in tumorigenesis and cancer progression. Recent studies revealed that there is a direct link between the EMT program and the gain of epithelial stem cell properties. EMT is sufficient to induce a population with stem cell characteristics from well-differentiated epithelial cells and cancer cells. In this review, we briefly introduce the biology of EMT inducers and transcription factors in tumorigenesis and then focus on the role of these key players of the EMT in generating and maintaining cancer stem cells.

Keywords

Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) Cancer stem cell Stemness Tumorigenesis Metastasis Transcription factor Tumor microenvironment Extracellular matrix (ECM) 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We apologize to those authors whose work was not cited due to the limited space. We would like to thank Shideng Bao (Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic) and reviewers for critical comments. This work was supported by grants from the National Nature Science Foundation of China (nos. 30570935, 30871242), the Science Planning Program of Fujian Province (2009J1010), a Berkeley Scholar Fellowship to G.O., and the National Basic Research Program of China (no. 2010CB732402) to C.J.Y. and G.O.

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Copyright information

© Springer Basel AG 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gaoliang Ouyang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zhe Wang
    • 1
  • Xiaoguang Fang
    • 1
  • Jia Liu
    • 1
  • Chaoyong James Yang
    • 2
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of the Ministry of Education for Cell Biology and Tumor Cell Engineering, School of Life SciencesXiamen UniversityXiamenChina
  2. 2.College of Chemistry and Chemical EngineeringXiamen UniversityXiamenChina

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