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Cancer Lett. 2004 Feb 20;204(2):127-43.

Midkine and pleiotrophin in neural development and cancer.

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Department of Biochemistry, Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine, 65 Tsurumai-cho, Showa-ku, Nagoya 466-8550, Japan.


The midkine (MK) family consists of only two members, namely heparin-binding growth factors MK and pleiotrophin (PTN). During embryogenesis, MK is highly expressed in the mid-gestational period, whereas PTN expression reaches the maximum level around birth. Both proteins are localized in the radial glial processes of the embryonic brain, along which neural stem cells migrate and differentiate. Zebrafish and Xenopus MK can induce neural tissues. In addition, deposits of MK and/or PTN are found in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease and multiple system atrophy. Both molecules are induced in reactive astrocytes by ischemic insults. In this context, it is interesting that LDL receptor-related protein is a receptor for MK and PTN, and this receptor has been implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease. MK and PTN share receptors, and show similar biological activities that include fibrinolytic, anti-apoptotic, mitogenic, transforming, angiogenic, and chemotactic ones. These activities explain how these molecules are involved in carcinogenesis. MK is detected in human carcinoma specimens from pre-cancerous stages to advanced stages. Strong expression of PTN is also detected in several carcinomas, although, in general, MK is expressed more intensely and in a wide range of carcinomas than PTN. The blood MK level is frequently elevated in advanced human carcinomas, decreases after surgical removal of the tumors, and is correlated with prognostic factors. Thus, it is a good market for evaluating the progress of carcinomas. Furthermore, antisense oligonucleotides for MK and ribozymes for PTN show anti-tumor activity. Therefore, MK and PTN are candidate molecular targets for therapy for human carcinomas.

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