Semaphorins constitute a large family of membrane-bound and secreted proteins that provide guidance cues for axon pathfinding and cell migration. Although initially discovered as repelling cues for axons in nervous system, they have been found to regulate cell adhesion and motility, angiogenesis, immune function and tumor progression. Notably, semaphorins are bifunctional cues and for instance can mediate both repulsive and attractive functions in different contexts. While many studies focused so far on the function of secreted family members, class 1 semaphorins in invertebrates and class 4, 5 and 6 in vertebrate species comprise around 14 transmembrane semaphorin molecules with emerging functional relevance. These can signal in juxtacrine, paracrine and autocrine fashion, hence mediating long and short range repulsive and attractive guidance cues which have a profound impact on cellular morphology and functions. Importantly, transmembrane semaphorins are capable of bidirectional signaling, acting both in “forward” mode via plexins (sometimes in association with receptor tyrosine kinases), and in “reverse” manner through their cytoplasmic domains. In this review, we will survey known molecular mechanisms underlying the functions of transmembrane semaphorins in development and cancer.
- signaling mechanisms
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience