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Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 132978, 8 pages
Research Article

Homeostatic Imbalance in Epithelial Ducts and Its Role in Carcinogenesis

1Depatment of Integrated Mathematical Oncology, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, 12902 Magnolia Drive, Room SRB-4 24000G, Tampa, FL 33612, USA
2Department of Oncologic Sciences, College of Medicine, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL 33612, USA

Received 31 May 2012; Accepted 25 June 2012

Academic Editors: P. Bates and M. Mottolese

Copyright © 2012 Katarzyna A. Rejniak. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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.