Standard Article

Epithelial Morphogenesis

Cell Biology

  1. Ronit Wilk1,2,
  2. Amanda T. Pickup1,
  3. Howard D. Lipshitz1,2

Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

DOI: 10.1002/3527600906.mcb.200300044

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

How to Cite

Wilk, R., Pickup, A. T. and Lipshitz, H. D. 2006. Epithelial Morphogenesis. Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    The Hospital for Sick Children, Program in Developmental Biology, Research Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

  2. 2

    University of Toronto, Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2006


An epithelium is a layer of polarized cells that are tightly bound together by a variety of junctional complexes and are connected to the extracellular matrix (ECM). Transmembrane proteins link the junctional complexes and the basal ECM to the cytoplasmic signal transduction machinery and the cytoskeleton of the epithelial cells. During development, epithelia are converted from simple two-dimensional sheets into complex, three-dimensional configurations in order to form tissues and organs. These morphogenetic changes are regulated in time and in space and are accompanied by differentiation of the cells within the epithelia into distinct identities. Epithelial morphogenesis is orchestrated by a variety of signaling molecules and transcription factors that coordinate cell shape changes, rearrangement, and migration. Much of the initial understanding of epithelial organization was derived from studies carried out on cultured vertebrate cells or tissues. More recently, genetic analyses in Drosophila melanogaster have complemented cell biological approaches and have provided insights into the spatial and temporal regulation of epithelial morphogenesis during development.


  • Drosophila melanogaster;
  • Epithelium;
  • Extracellular Matrix (ECM);
  • Metazoa;
  • Morphogenesis