Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Neural Induction: the General Principle for Embryogenesis and Tumorigenesis

Version 1 : Received: 10 August 2022 / Approved: 10 August 2022 / Online: 10 August 2022 (12:10:36 CEST)
Version 2 : Received: 8 March 2023 / Approved: 9 March 2023 / Online: 9 March 2023 (06:57:01 CET)

How to cite: Cao, Y. Neural Induction: the General Principle for Embryogenesis and Tumorigenesis. Preprints 2022, 2022080203. Cao, Y. Neural Induction: the General Principle for Embryogenesis and Tumorigenesis. Preprints 2022, 2022080203.


Some concepts/hypotheses have been proposed to explain the general rules behind the complexity of tumorigenesis. Characterization of the property of cancer cells and neural stem cells indicates that neural stemness underlies tumorigenicity and pluripotency, leading to the proposal that tumorigenesis represents a process of progressive loss of original cell identity and gain of neural stemness. This reminds of a most fundamental process required for the development of the nervous system and body axis during embryogenesis, i.e., embryonic neural induction. The principle of neural induction is that, in response to extracellular signals that are secreted by the Spemann-Mangold organizer in amphibians or the node in mammals and inhibit epidermal fate in ectoderm, the ectodermal cells assume the neural default fate and turn into neuroectodermal cells. These cells further differentiate into the nervous system and also some non-neural cells via interaction with adjacent tissues. Failure in neural induction leads to failure of embryogenesis, and ectopic neural induction due to ectopic organizer or node activity or activation of embryonic neural genes causes a formation of secondary body axis or conjoined twins. A similar principle underlies tumorigenesis. Increasing evidence has demonstrated that the core property of cancer cells is neural stemness. Therefore, cancer cells are cells with the loss of original cell identity and gain of neural stemness, and consequently tumorigenicity and pluripotency, due to various intra-/extracellular insults in postnatal animals. Unlike that pluripotent cells (embryonic pluripotent cells, neural stem cells and cancer cells) can differentiate and integrate into embryonic development, cancer cells are capable of self-renewal and differentiation, but cannot integrate into normal tissues in a 2 postnatal animal, ultimately leading to tumor formation. Neural induction and the unique property of neural stemness provide an inclusive explanation for embryogenesis, conjoined twin formation and tumorigenesis. Based on these findings, I discuss about some confusion in cancer research, e.g., epithelial-mesenchymal transition, and propose to distinguish the causality and associations, and the causal and supporting factors involved in tumorigenesis, and suggest revisiting the focus of cancer research. Integration of evidence from developmental and cancer biology indicates that neural stemness determines tumorigenicity and pluripotency, and neural induction drives embryogenesis in gastrulating embryos but a similar process drives tumorigenesis in a postnatal animal.


neural induction; embryogenesis; tumorigenesis; conjoined twin; Spemann organizer; node; neural default model; neural stemness; tumorigenicity; pluripotency; epithelial-mesenchymal transition; tumor microenvironment


Biology and Life Sciences, Cell and Developmental Biology

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