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J Invest Dermatol. 2012 Apr;132(4):1230-8. doi: 10.1038/jid.2011.414. Epub 2011 Dec 22.

Sema4D, the ligand for Plexin B1, suppresses c-Met activation and migration and promotes melanocyte survival and growth.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Rochester School of Medicine, Rochester, New York 14618, USA.


Semaphorins are secreted and membrane-bound proteins involved in neural pathfinding, organogenesis, and tumor progression, through Plexin and neuropilin receptors. We recently reported that Plexin B1, the Semaphorin 4D (Sema4D) receptor, is a tumor-suppressor protein for melanoma, which functions, in part, through inhibition of the oncogenic c-Met tyrosine kinase receptor. In this report, we show that Sema4D is a protective paracrine factor for normal human melanocyte survival in response to UV irradiation, and that it stimulates proliferation and regulates the activity of the c-Met receptor. c-Met receptor signaling stimulates melanocyte migration, partly through downregulation of the cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin. Sema4D suppressed activation of c-Met in response to its ligand, hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), and partially blocked the suppressive effects of HGF on E-cadherin expression in melanocytes and HGF-dependent migration. These data demonstrate a role for Plexin B1 in maintenance of melanocyte survival and proliferation in the skin, and suggest that Sema4D and Plexin B1 act cooperatively with HGF and c-Met to regulate c-Met-dependent effects in human melanocytes. Because our data show that Plexin B1 is profoundly downregulated by UVB in melanocytes, loss of Plexin B1 may accentuate HGF-dependent effects on melanocytes, including melanocyte migration.

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