Factors Controlling Growth, Motility, and Morphogenesis of Normal and Malignant Epithelial Cells

Carmen Birchmeier, Dirk Meyer, Dieter Riethmacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Factors that control epithelial growth, motility, and morphogenesis play important roles in malignancy and in normal development. Here we discuss the molecular nature and the function of two types of molecules that control the development and maintenance of epithelia: Components that regulate epithelial cell adhesion; and soluble factors and their receptors that regulate growth, motility, differentiation, and morphogenesis. In development, the establishment of epithelial cell characteristics and organization is crucially dependent on cell adhesion and the formation of functional adherens junctions. The integrity of adherens junctions is frequently disturbed late in tumor progression, and the resulting loss of epithelial characteristics correlates with the metastatic potential of carcinoma cells. Various soluble factors that induce epithelial growth, motility, or differentiation in cell culture, function via tyrosine kinase receptors. We concentrate here on receptors that are expressed exclusively or predominantly on epithelia, and on ligands that are derived from the mesenchyme. In development, these receptors and their ligands function in mesenchymal-epithelial interactions, which are known to govern growth, morphogenesis, and differentiation of epithelia. During tumor development, mutations or overexpression of the receptors are frequently observed; these alterations contribute to the development and progression of carcinomas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-266
Number of pages46
JournalInternational Review of Cytology
Issue numberC
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 1995


  • Catenin
  • E-cadherin
  • Keratinocyte growth factor (KGF)
  • Neuregulin/Neu differentiation factor/NDF/heregulin
  • Scatter factor/hepatocyte growth factor (SF/ HGF)
  • c-ErbB receptor
  • c-Met receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Histology
  • Cell Biology

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