Transdifferentiation in neoplastic development and its pathological implication


  • Zhong Zhang
  • X. M. Yuan
  • L. H. Li
  • F. P. Xie


neoplastic cells, transdifferentiation, histogenesis, genetic instability


Transdifferentiation is a process in which a cell committed to a particular specialization changes to another quite distinct type. It occurs during embryological development and some pathological processes, and causes the tumor cells to express a phenotype different from that of their normal progenitors. Neoplastic transdifferentiation involves pathogenesis of cancer subtype, transition between neoplastic epithelia and neuroendocrine cell, transition between neoplastic epithelia and mesenchyme, as well as transition between non-neuroectodermal and neuroectodermal cells. We propose that differentiation disturbance of cancer cells should include not only lower-, un-, or de-differentiation, but also transdifferentiation. Tumor cell transdifferentiation results from genetic instabilities. In some type of neoplastic transition, the initiation may be induced by extracellular matrix and growth factors.