Class 3 semaphorins (Sema3s) regulate axon guidance, angiogenesis, tumor growth, and tumor metastasis. Neuropilins (NRPs; NRP1 and NRP2) are the cell surface receptors for the Sema3s. However, to signal, interaction of Sema3s and NRPs with plexins is obligatory. In this issue of the JCI, Casazza and colleagues report data that challenge the conventional wisdom about the role of Sema3s in tumor metastasis. As a rule, Sema3B and Sema3F, for example, are inhibitors of tumor angiogenesis, progression, and metastasis. However, Casazza et al. found that Sema3E inhibited tumor growth but atypically promoted invasiveness and metastasis. This metastatic potential was dependent on Plexin D1 expression but was independent of NRP expression. Of clinical importance, Sema3E and Plexin D1 were found to be upregulated in human colon cancer, liver metastasis, and melanoma progression.
Michael Klagsbrun, Akio Shimizu