Tip cells: master regulators of tubulogenesis?

Helen Weavers, Helen Skaer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The normal development of an organ depends on the coordinated regulation of multiple cell activities. Focusing on tubulogenesis, we review the role of specialised cells or groups of cells that are selected from within tissue primordia and differentiate at the outgrowing tips or leading edge of developing tubules. Tip or leading cells develop distinctive patterns of gene expression that enable them to act both as sensors and transmitters of intercellular signalling. This enables them to explore the environment, respond to both tissue intrinsic signals and extrinsic cues from surrounding tissues and to regulate the behaviour of their neighbours, including the setting of cell fate, patterning cell division, inducing polarity and promoting cell movement and cell rearrangements by neighbour exchange. Tip cells are also able to transmit mechanical tension to promote tissue remodelling and, by interacting with the extracellular matrix, they can dictate migratory pathways and organ shape. Where separate tubular structures fuse to form networks, as in the airways of insects or the vascular system of vertebrates, specialised fusion tip cells act to interconnect disparate elements of the developing network. Finally, we consider their importance in the maturation of mature physiological function and in the development of disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-9
Number of pages9
JournalSeminars in Cell and Developmental Biology
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.


  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells
  • Humans
  • Morphogenesis


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