Human Cripto-1 (CR-1), a member of the epidermal growth factor (EGF)-CFC family, has been implicated in embryogenesis and in carcinogenesis. During early vertebrate development, CR-1 functions as a co-receptor for Nodal, a transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) family member and is essential for mesoderm and endoderm formation and anterior-posterior and left-right axis establishment. In adult tissues, CR-1 is expressed at a low level in all stages of mammary gland development and expression increases during pregnancy and lactation. Overexpression of CR-1 in mouse mammary epithelial cells leads to their transformation in vitro and, when injected into mammary glands, produces ductal hyperplasias. CR-1 can also enhance migration, invasion, branching morphogenesis and epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) of several mouse mammary epithelial cell lines. Furthermore, transgenic mouse studies have shown that overexpression of a human CR-1 transgene in the mammary gland under the transcriptional control of the mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) promoter results in mammary hyperplasias and papillary adenocarcinomas. Finally, CR-1 is expressed at high levels in approximately 50 to 80% of different types of human carcinomas, including breast, cervix, colon, stomach, pancreas, lung, ovary, and testis. In conclusion, EGF-CFC proteins play dual roles as embryonic pattern formation genes and as oncogenes. While during embryogenesis EGF-CFC proteins perform specific and regulatory functions related to cell and tissue patterning, inappropriate expression of these molecules in adult tissues can lead to cellular proliferation and transformation and therefore may be important in the etiology and/or progression of cancer.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Biology