Morphogen Signals Shaping the Gastric Glands in Health and Disease
Zagami C., Papp D., Daddi AA., Boccellato F.
The adult gastric mucosa is characterised by deep invaginations of the epithelium called glands. These tissue architectural elements are maintained with the contribution of morphogen signals. Morphogens are expressed in specific areas of the tissue, and their diffusion generates gradients in the microenvironment. Cells at different positions in the gland sense a specific combination of signals that instruct them to differentiate, proliferate, regenerate, or migrate. Differentiated cells perform specific functions involved in digestion, such as the production of protective mucus and the secretion of digestive enzymes or gastric acid. Biopsies from gastric precancerous conditions usually display tissue aberrations and change the shape of the glands. Alteration of the morphogen signalling microenvironment is likely to underlie those conditions. Furthermore, genes involved in morphogen signalling pathways are found to be frequently mutated in gastric cancer. We summarise the most recent findings regarding alterations of morphogen signalling during gastric carcinogenesis, and we highlight the new stem cell technologies that are improving our understanding of the regulation of human tissue shape.