Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and stem cells in endometrial cancer

Author(s): Mirantes C Espinosa I, Ferrer I, Dolcet X, Prat J, et al.


This review article describes the main features of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and its possible role in understanding myometrial invasion in endometrial carcinoma (EC), as well as the development of malignant mixed Müllerian tumor (MMMT). Moreover, the article discusses the possible role of somatic (SSC) and cancer stem cells (CSC) in EC. Different transcriptional repressors of E-cadherin have been identified in EMT, including Snail and Slug, ZEB1 and ZEB2, and E47 and Twist. The expression of some of these genes is increased at the myoinvasive front and correlates inversely with E-cadherin inmunoreactivity. Whereas the transient occurrence of the EMT phenomenon is important for myometrial invasion in conventional EC, MMMT shows permanent expression of EMT leading to repression of E-cadherin and increased expression of mesenchymal markers including proteins involved in skeletal muscle development. An SSC population, identified as a side population, assessed by the Hoechst dye exclusion test has been identified in human endometrium. CSCs have been defined in analogy to SSC as cancer cells that have the capacity to self-renew, which means undergoing divisions that allow the generation of more identical CSCs and give rise to the variety of more differentiated cells found in the malignancy. Although published data show that CD133(+) cells retain the characteristics of CSC, there is no conclusive evidence showing that CD133 is the universal marker for EC stem cells. Finally, a possible role for endometrial stem cells in the development of ovarian endometriosis and ovarian endometrioid carcinoma is commented.

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