Somatic cells that change from one mature phenotype to another exhibit the property of plasticity. It is increasingly clear that epithelial and endothelial cells enjoy some of this plasticity, which is easily demonstrated by studying the process of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Published reports from the literature typically rely on ad hoc criteria for determining EMT events; consequently, there is some uncertainty as to whether the same process occurs under different experimental conditions. As we discuss in this Personal Perspective, we believe that context and various changes in plasticity biomarkers can help identify at least three types of EMT and that using a collection of criteria for EMT increases the likelihood that everyone is studying the same phenomenon — namely, the transition of epithelial and endothelial cells to a motile phenotype.
Michael Zeisberg, Eric G. Neilson