Differentiation of columnar epithelia: The hensin pathway

Soundarapandian Vijayakumar, Jiro Takito, Xiao Bo Gao, George J. Schwartz, Qais Al-Awqati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Epithelia, the most common variety of cells in complex organisms exist in many shapes. They are sheets of polarized cells that separate two compartments and selectively transport materials from one to the other. After acquiring these general characteristics, they differentiate to become specialized types such as squamous columnar or transitional epithelia. High density seeding converts a kidney-derived cell line from flat 'generic' epithelial cells to columnar cells. The cells acquire all the characteristics of differentiated columnar cells, including microvilli, and the capacity for apical endocytosis. The high seeding density induces the deposition of a new protein termed hensin and polymerization of hensin is the crucial event that dictates changes in epithelial phenotype. Hensin is widely expressed in most epithelia. Its deletion in mice leads to embryonic lethality at the time of generation of the first columnar epithelium, the visceral endoderm. Moreover many human cancers have deletions in the hensin gene, which indicates that it is a tumor suppressor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4797-4801
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of cell science
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Columnar epithelia
  • DMBT1
  • Epithelial terminal differentiation
  • Hensin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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