Evidence for Developmentally Programmed Transdifferentiation in Mouse Esophageal Muscle

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Science  15 Dec 1995:
Vol. 270, Issue 5243, pp. 1818-1821
DOI: 10.1126/science.270.5243.1818


Transdifferentiation is a relatively rare phenomenon in which cells of one differentiated type and function switch to a second discrete identity. In vertebrate embryos, smooth muscle and skeletal muscle are distinct tissues that arise from separate compartments of the mesoderm. The musculature of the mouse esophagus was found to undergo a conversion from smooth muscle in the fetus to skeletal muscle during early postnatal development. The switch from smooth to skeletal muscle features the transitory appearance of individual cells expressing a mixed phenotype, which suggests that this conversion is a result of programmed transdifferentiation.