Unresolved Complexity in the Gene Regulatory Network Underlying EMT

Deborah P. Lavin, Vijay K. Tiwari*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
122 Downloads (Pure)


Epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) is the process whereby a polarized epithelial cell ceases to maintain cell-cell contacts, loses expression of characteristic epithelial cell markers, and acquires mesenchymal cell markers and properties such as motility, contractile ability, and invasiveness. A complex process that occurs during development and many disease states, EMT involves a plethora of transcription factors (TFs) and signaling pathways. Whilst great advances have been made in both our understanding of the progressive cell-fate changes during EMT and the gene regulatory networks that drive this process, there are still gaps in our knowledge. Epigenetic modifications are dynamic, chromatin modifying enzymes are vast and varied, transcription factors are pleiotropic, and signaling pathways are multifaceted and rarely act alone. Therefore, it is of great importance that we decipher and understand each intricate step of the process and how these players at different levels crosstalk with each other to successfully orchestrate EMT. A delicate balance and fine-tuned cooperation of gene regulatory mechanisms is required for EMT to occur successfully, and until we resolve the unknowns in this network, we cannot hope to develop effective therapies against diseases that involve aberrant EMT such as cancer. In this review, we focus on data that challenge these unknown entities underlying EMT, starting with EMT stimuli followed by intracellular signaling through to epigenetic mechanisms and chromatin remodeling.

Original languageEnglish
Article number554
Number of pages19
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2020


  • cancer
  • chromatin
  • EMT
  • epigenetics
  • gene regulation
  • signaling
  • transcription factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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