Epithelial tubular morphogenesis (tubulogenesis) is a fundamental morphogenetic process of many epithelial organs. In this developmental process, epithelial cells migrate, proliferate, polarize and differentiate towards surrounding mesenchymal tissue to form tubule structures. Although epithelial tissue structures are basically stable in the postnatal period, epithelial cells regain highly proliferative and invasive potentials within mesenchymal tissue during tumour formation (tumourigenesis). Therefore, there must be a common molecular basis orchestrating the cellular behaviours involved in both tubulogenesis and tumourigenesis. ADP-ribosylation factor (Arf)-like protein 4c (Arl4c), which belongs to the small GTP-binding protein family, is expressed by the simultaneous activation of Wnt - β-catenin and growth factor - Ras-mitogen-activated protein kinase signalling, was identified as an essential regulator of tubulogenesis. Arl4c expression was also involved in the tumour formation of colorectal and lung cancers. In this review, we focus on Arl4c as a novel Wnt signal target molecule that links epithelial tubulogenesis to tumourigenesis.
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