Epithelial-to-mesenchymal and mesenchymal-to-epithelial transitions are well established biological events which have an important role in not just normal tissue and organ development, but in the pathogenesis of diseases. Increasing evidence has established their presence in the human colon during colorectal carcinogenesis and cancer invasion, chronic inflammation-related fibrosis and in the course of mucosal healing. A large body of evidence supports the role for transforming growth factor-β and its downstream Smad signaling, the phosphatidylinositol 3'-kinase/Akt/mTOR axis, the Ras-mitogen-activated protein kinase/Snail/Slug and FOXC2 pathway, and Hedgehog signaling and microRNAs in the development of colorectal cancers via epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. C-met and Frizzled-7, among others, seem to be the principle effectors of mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition, hence have a role not just in mucosal regeneration but in the progression of colonic wall fibrosis. Here we discuss a role for these pathways in the initiation and development of the transition events. A better understanding of their induction and regulation may lead to the identification of pathways and factors that could be potent therapeutic targets. The inhibition of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition using mTOR kinase inhibitors targeting the ATP binding pocket and which inhibit both mTORC1 and mTORC2, RNA aptamers or peptide mimetics, such as a Wnt5A-mimetic, may all be useful in both cancer treatment and delaying fibrosis, while the induction of mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition in induced pluripotent stem cells may enhance epithelial healing in the case of severe mucosal damage. The preliminary results of the current studies are promising, but more clinical investigations are needed to develop new and safe therapeutic strategies for diseases of the colon.
- Colorectal cancer
- Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition
- Mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition
- Mucosal healing
ASJC Scopus subject areas