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Reproduction. 2010 Apr;139(4):697-704. doi: 10.1530/REP-10-0017. Epub 2010 Jan 25.

The SLIT-ROBO pathway: a regulator of cell function with implications for the reproductive system.

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  • 1MRC Human Reproductive Sciences Unit Division of Reproductive and Developmental Sciences, The Queen's Medical Research Institute, Centre for Reproductive Biology, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH16 4TJ, Scotland, UK.


The secreted SLIT glycoproteins and their Roundabout (ROBO) receptors were originally identified as important axon guidance molecules. They function as a repulsive cue with an evolutionarily conserved role in preventing axons from migrating to inappropriate locations during the assembly of the nervous system. In addition the SLIT-ROBO interaction is involved in the regulation of cell migration, cell death and angiogenesis and, as such, has a pivotal role during the development of other tissues such as the lung, kidney, liver and breast. The cellular functions that the SLIT/ROBO pathway controls during tissue morphogenesis are processes that are dysregulated during cancer development. Therefore inactivation of certain SLITs and ROBOs is associated with advanced tumour formation and progression in disparate tissues. Recent research has indicated that the SLIT/ROBO pathway could also have important functions in the reproductive system. The fetal ovary expresses most members of the SLIT and ROBO families. The SLITs and ROBOs also appear to be regulated by steroid hormones and regulate physiological cell functions in adult reproductive tissues such as the ovary and endometrium. Furthermore several SLITs and ROBOs are aberrantly expressed during the development of ovarian, endometrial, cervical and prostate cancer. This review will examine the roles this pathway could have in the development, physiology and pathology of the reproductive system and highlight areas for future research that could further dissect the influence of the SLIT/ROBO pathway in reproduction.

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