Preprint Review Version 2 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Neural Induction, 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, Embryogenesis, and Tumorigenesis. Preprints 2022, 2022080203. Cao, Y. Neural Induction, Embryogenesis, and Tumorigenesis. Preprints 2022, 2022080203.


Characterization of cancer cells and neural stem cells indicates that tumorigenicity and pluripotency are coupled cell properties determined by neural stemness, and 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. 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 lose their epidermal fate and assume the neural default fate and consequently, turn into neuroectodermal cells. They 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 a conjoined twin. During tumorigenesis, cells progressively lose their original cell identity and gain of neural stemness, and consequently, gain of tumorigenicity and pluripotency, due to various intra-/extracellular insults in cells of a postnatal animal. Tumorigenic cells can be induced to differentiation into normal cells and integrate into normal embryonic development within an embryo. However, they form tumors and cannot integrate into animal tissues/organs in a postnatal animal because of lack of embryonic inducing signals. Combination of studies of developmental and cancer biology indicates that neural induction drives embryogenesis in gastrulating embryos but a similar process drives tumorigenesis in a postnatal animal. Tumorigenicity is the manifestation of aberrant occurrence of pluripotent state in a postnatal animal. Pluripotency and tumorigenicity are both but different manifestations of neural stemness in pre- and postnatal stage, respectively, of animal life. The unique property of neural stemness is derived from the evolutionary advantage of neural genes and the neural-biased state of the last common unicellular ancestors of metazoan. Based on these findings, I discuss about some confusion in cancer research, propose to distinguish the causality and associations and discriminate causal and supporting factors involved in tumorigenesis, and suggest revisiting the focus of cancer research.


neural induction; embryogenesis; tumorigenesis; neural stemness; tumorigenicity; pluripotency; epithelial-mesenchymal transition; tumor microenvironment


Biology and Life Sciences, Cell and Developmental Biology

Comments (1)

Comment 1
Received: 9 March 2023
Commenter: Ying Cao
Commenter's Conflict of Interests: Author
Comment: 1. The Legend for Figure 1 was revised.
2. Previous Figure 3 and related text were removed.
3. A new Figure 3 and related text were added.
4. Figure 4 and its legend were revised.
5. Minor text changes throughout the paper.
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