Epithelial–Mesenchymal Transition: From Molecular Mechanisms, Redox Regulation to Implications in Human Health and Disease
Epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a fundamental process, paradigmatic of the concept of cell plasticity, that leads epithelial cells to lose their polarization and specialized junctional structures, to undergo cytoskeleton reorganization, and to acquire morphological and functional features of mesenchymal-like cells. Although EMT has been originally described in embryonic development, where cell migration and tissue remodeling have a primary role in regulating morphogenesis in multicellular organisms, recent literature has provided evidence suggesting that the EMT process is a more general biological process that is also involved in several pathophysiological conditions, including cancer progression and organ fibrosis. This review offers first a comprehensive introduction to describe major relevant features of EMT, followed by sections dedicated on those signaling mechanisms that are known to regulate or affect the process, including the recently proposed role for oxidative stress and reactive oxygen species (ROS). Current literature data involving EMT in both physiological conditions (i.e., embryogenesis) and major human diseases are then critically analyzed, with a special final focus on the emerging role of hypoxia as a relevant independent condition able to trigger EMT.