Research Topic

Signalling pathways in developing and pathological tissues and organs of the craniofacial complex

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The field of craniofacial biology has greatly benefited from the progress made the last decades in developmental biology, molecular biology, stem cell biology and genomics. New data on the action of signalling pathways that are involved in developmental processes has significantly increased our comprehension ...

The field of craniofacial biology has greatly benefited from the progress made the last decades in developmental biology, molecular biology, stem cell biology and genomics. New data on the action of signalling pathways that are involved in developmental processes has significantly increased our comprehension of the organization and function of molecular networks that are involved in the formation of the craniofacial complex. Craniofacial development involves the patterning, outgrowth, fusion, and moulding of various heterogeneous tissues. The important role of epithelial-mesenchymal interactions and signalling molecules in craniofacial development has been revealed by genetic manipulations in mice.

The importance of the various signalling pathways in embryonic development was revealed more than two decades ago. Since then, the concept of how signalling molecules bind to cells and their transport from the membrane to the cytoplasm and/or nucleus has been supplemented with new exciting findings. The multifunctional nature of the signalling molecules provides craniofacial tissues and organs with versatile means of driving their development and controlling cell behaviour. These molecules have numerous effects on cell proliferation, migration, differentiation, tissue morphogenesis, homeostasis and regeneration, and their deregulation and malfunction lead to severe craniofacial pathologies. The effects of the signalling molecules can be different, even opposite, depending on the cell type and the environmental conditions. Elucidating the functionality of the various signalling pathways raised the spectre of complicated signal transduction processes. The crosstalk and biochemical links between molecules of the various signalling pathways can reveal new principles of signal-driven transcriptional action. Target genes of the various signalling molecules may trigger stem cell differentiation, cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, and immune responses. It is important to elucidate how cells transit from one context to another (e.g. stem cells to differentiated cells) under the responsiveness to precise signalling molecules.

Recent advances have showed the importance of signalling molecules in craniofacial physiology and disease and moved the field closer to the understanding of the context-dependent nature of their action. Mutations in regulators and selected components of the signalling pathways stressed their medical relevance. Research on ligand-receptor interactions will benefit to the development of new pharmaceutical products that mimic and block these interactions. Finally, understanding how and when the various signalling pathways may activate cell proliferation, migration and apoptosis could benefit in the development of new therapeutic approaches after injury or cancer within the craniofacial complex.

With the present special topic we aim to cover the recent progress on cell signalling during craniofacial development, pathology and regeneration. We encourage the submission of original research reports, review articles, commentaries and perspectives including (but not limited to) the following:

- signalling pathways during the development and pathology of craniofacial organs and tissues (e.g. teeth, salivary glands, eyes, ears, hairs, nose, palate etc.)
- general transcriptional and genomic elements of the signalling pathways
- signalling molecules in various regenerative contexts, including stem cells, lineage-committed progenitors etc.
- signalling molecules in epithelial-mesenchymal interactions and epithelial-mesenchymal transitions
- signalling pathways in cytodifferentiation processes
- signalling pathways in human craniofacial defects


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