About this Research Topic
Epithelial plasticity, the ability of epithelial cells to reversibly change phenotype, is a fascinating phenomenon that has been extensively studied for decades. Phenotypic plasticity of the epithelium is a critical and common feature in embryonic development, inflammation/tissue repair, cancer and more recently stem cell differentiation. Most commonly epithelial plasticity refers to the conversion between epithelial and mesenchymal phenotype, processes known as epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition (MET), the reverse process. Both processes are integral stages of many physiological processes and used by cells and tissues to adapt to various stimuli or cellular stress. EMT has been classically defined as a developmental program that is instrumental in early embryo patterning for many organs, characterized by epithelial cells losing cell-to-cell adhesion, epithelial tight junctions, and desmosomes. MET is regarded as the reversible biological process of EMT that involves losing mesenchymal signature and re-acquiring epithelial characteristics.
In more recent years, an increasing number of studies have suggested novel aspects of epithelial biology which challenge the traditional classical definition of epithelium. Reports of sub-specialized epithelial, transit-epithelial and the conversion between epithelial sub-types in response to injury promote further investigation into the full complexity of epithelial plasticity and potential novel functions of conventional as well as non-conventional epithelial cells. Though the micro-environmental signals and the responding machineries enabling epithelial cells to change phenotype are yet to be fully identified, the importance of epithelial interactions such as epithelial-endothelial and epithelial-fibroblast crosstalk has been highlighted in inflammatory response, cancer progression and wound repair.
In this Research Topic, we would like to call for submission of Original Research, Reviews, Mini-Reviews and Methods that address the fascinating and complex states of epithelial plasticity, their distinctions and function, in both human and various model organisms. We encourage contributions from developmental and cell biologists, biomaterial specialists, engineer, as well as experts in stem cell niches and tissue modelling. The proposed Research Topic aims to attract submissions related, but not limited, to the following areas:
• Plasticity, trans-differentiation, specialization, de-differentiation and re-differentiation of epithelial cells, including complete, partial or transient EMT and MET, and related mechanisms, functional implications and pharmacological interventions;
• Micro-environmental signals and regulatory mechanisms that orchestrate the interactions between epithelial and other cell types, e.g. endothelial cells, fibroblasts, pericytes, gamma delta T cells;
• Novel functions of conventional, unconventional and specialized epithelial cells, their interactions with the environments and innovative pharmacological implications;
• Tissue modelling and regenerative approaches utilizing epithelial plasticity, complexity and diverse functions.
Keywords: Epithelial Plasticity, Epithelial Cells, Differentiation
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.