The bladder urothelium is essentially quiescent but regenerates readily upon injury. The process of urothelial regeneration harkens back to the process of urothelial development whereby urothelial stem/progenitor cells must proliferate and terminally differentiate to establish all three urothelial layers. How the urothelium regulates the level of proliferation and the timing of differentiation to ensure the precise degree of regeneration is of significant interest in the field. Without a carefully-orchestrated process, urothelial regeneration may be inadequate, thereby exposing the host to toxins or pathogens, or excessive, thereby setting the stage for tumor development. This review describes our current understanding of urothelial regeneration. The current controversies surrounding the identity and location of urothelial progenitor cells which mediate urothelial regeneration are discussed and evidence for each model is provided. We emphasize the factors which have been shown to be crucial for urothelial regeneration, including local growth factors which stimulate repair and epithelial-mesenchymal crosstalk which ensures feedback regulation. Also highlighted is the emerging concept of epigenetic regulation of urothelial regeneration which additionally fine tunes the process through transcriptional regulation of cell cycle genes and growth and differentiation factors. Finally, we emphasize how several of these pathways and/or programs are often dysregulated during malignant transformation, further corroborating their importance in directing normal urothelial regeneration. Together, evidence in the field suggests that any attempt to exploit regenerative programs for the purposes of enhanced urothelial repair or replacement must take into account this delicate balance.
- bladder cancer
- Copyright © 2016, American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology