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Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2004 Mar;49(3):245-58.

Thrombospondin 1: a multifunctional protein implicated in the regulation of tumor growth.

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Laboratoire de Biochimie, UFR Sciences de Reims, FRE-CNRS 2534, IFR 53 "Biomol├ęcules", Moulin de la housse BP1039, 51687 Reims Cedex 2, France.


Thrombospondins belong to a family of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins widely found from embryonic to adult tissues. The modular structure of thrombospondins contains a series of peptide sequences implicated in a multiplicity of biological functions. Extracellular matrix undergoes important alterations under proteolysis that occurs in pathological processes like tumorigenesis. An elevated secretion of thrombospondin 1 (TSP1) is often observed in tumors and is sometimes considered as a predictive factor. However, the role of TSP1 in cancer progression remains controversial and must be carefully apprehended. The regulation of cell adhesion, proliferation, apoptosis by TSP1 is examined in the present review and it is clear from the literature and from our investigations that TSP1 presents both stimulatory and inhibitory effects. The exposition of cryptic sites upon conformational changes can partially explain this contradiction. More interestingly, the analysis of TSP1-directed intracellular signaling pathways activated through specific receptors or supramolecular receptors docking systems may be useful to discriminate the precise function of TSP1 in tumor progression. The central role played by TSP1 in the control of matrix-degrading enzyme activation and catabolism reveals attractive tracks of research and highlights the involvement of the lipoprotein receptor-related protein (LRP) receptor in these events. Therefore, TSP1-derived peptides constitute a source of potentially active matrikins which could provide essential tools in cancer therapy.

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