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Curr Med Chem. 2011;18(4):497-512.

The CXCL12/CXCR4 axis as a therapeutic target in cancer and HIV-1 infection.

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  • 1Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Siena, Via Aldo Moro 2, 53100 Siena, Itlay. patrussi2@unisi.it


The seven-spanning transmembrane G-protein coupled receptor CXCR4, which specifically binds to the chemokine CXCL12, is expressed on many cell types, including various types of tumour cells. CXCR4 plays a crucial role in organ-specific metastasis, directing migration of malignant cells expressing this receptor toward microenvironments where the cognate ligand is secreted. CXCL12 has a direct growth and survival-promoting effect for various cancer cells and enhances moreover tumour angiogenesis by recruiting endothelial progenitor cells to tumours. Drugs which modulate the CXCL12/CXCR4 axis are therefore promising candidates in anti-cancer therapies. CXCR4 is also a coreceptor for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) X4 virus and, as such, plays an important role in virus entry into target cells. Hence, antiviral agents that bind to CXCR4 are expected to inhibit HIV-1 entry. Here we review the structure, mechanism of action and biological activity of the main CXCR4 antagonists (peptide inhibitors, non-peptide antagonists, neutralizing antibodies, modified analogues of CXCL12) and agonists (CXCL12 peptide analogues) and discuss the CXCL12/CXCR4 axis as an important target in development of anti-tumoral and anti-HIV-1 therapies.

© 2011 Bentham Science Publishers Ltd.

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