Get access

Transdifferentiation—fact or artifact

Authors

  • Ying Liu,

    1. Laboratory of Neurosciences, National Institute on Aging, 5600 Nathan Shock Drive, Baltimore, Maryland 21224
    2. Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, University of Utah School of Medicine, 50 North Medical Drive, Salt Lake City, Utah 84132
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Mahendra S. Rao

    Corresponding author
    1. Laboratory of Neurosciences, National Institute on Aging, 5600 Nathan Shock Drive, Baltimore, Maryland 21224
    • Laboratory of Neurosciences, National Institute on Aging, 5600 Nathan Shock Drive, Baltimore, MD 21224.
    Search for more papers by this author

  • This article is a US Government work, and as such, is in the public doman of the United States of America.

Abstract

Normal development appears to involve a progressive restriction in developmental potential. However, recent evidence suggests that this progressive restriction is not irreversible and can be altered to reveal novel phenotypic potentials of stem, progenitor, and even differentiated cells. While some of these results can be explained by the presence of contaminating cell populations, persistence of pluripotent stem cells, cell fusion, etc., several examples exist that are difficult to explain as anything other than “true transdifferentiation” and/or dedifferentiation. These examples of transdifferentiation are best explained by understanding how the normal process of progressive cell fate restriction occurs during development. We suggest that subversion of epigenetic controls regulating cell type specific gene expression likely underlies the process of transdifferentiation and it may be possible to identify specific factors to control the transdifferentiation process. We predict, however, that transdifferentiation will not be reliable or reproducible and will probably require complex manipulations. Published 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Ancillary