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An epithelial duct is a well-defined multicellular structure composed of tightly packed cells separating and protecting body compartments that are used for enzyme secretion and its transport across the internal. The structural and functional integrity (homeostasis) of such ducts is vital in carrying many life functions (breathing, lactation, production of hormones). However, the processes involved in maintaining the homeostatic balance are not yet fully understood. On the other hand, the loss of epithelial tissue architecture, such as filled lumens or ductal disorganization, are among the first symptoms of the emerging epithelial tumors (carcinomas). Using the previously developed biomechanical model of epithelial ducts: IBCell, we investigated how different signals and mechanical stimuli imposed on individual epithelial cells can impact the homeostatic (im)balance and integrity of the whole epithelial tissue. We provide a link between erroneous responses of individual epithelial cells to specific signals and the emerging ductal morphologies characteristic for preinvasive cancers observed in pathology specimens, or characteristic for multicellular structures arising from mutated cells cultured in vitro. We summarize our finding in terms of altered properties of epithelial cell polarization, and discuss the relative importance of various polarization signals on the formation of tumor-like multicellular structures.

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Scientifica, v. 2012, art. 132978

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