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Cancer Res. 2005 Jul 15;65(14):6167-77.

Proteolytic processing converts the repelling signal Sema3E into an inducer of invasive growth and lung metastasis.

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Institute of Cancer Biology, Department of Biostatistics and Electronic Data Processing, Institute of Cancer Epidemiology, Danish Cancer Society, Copenhagen, Denmark.


We have previously shown that the expression of a semaphorin, known as a repelling cue in axon guidance, Sema3E, correlates with the ability to form lung metastasis in murine adenocarcinoma cell models. Now, besides providing evidence for the relevance of SEMA3E to human disease by showing that SEMA3E is frequently expressed in human cancer cell lines and solid tumors from breast cancer patients, we show biological activities of Sema3E, which support the implication of Sema3E in tumor progression and metastasis. In vivo, expression of Sema3E in mammary adenocarcinoma cells induces the ability to form experimental lung metastasis, and in vitro, the Sema3E protein exhibits both migration and growth promoting activity on endothelial cells and pheochromocytoma cells. This represents the first evidence of a metastasis-promoting function of a class 3 semaphorin, as this class of genes has hitherto been implicated in tumor biology only as tumor suppressors and negative regulators of growth. Moreover, we show that the full-size Sema3E protein is converted into a p61-Sema3E isoform due to furin-dependent processing, and by analyzing processing-deficient and truncated forms, we show that the generation of p61-Sema3E is required and sufficient for the function of Sema3E in lung metastasis, cell migration, invasive growth, and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 activation of endothelial cells. These findings suggest that certain breast cancer cells may increase their lung-colonizing ability by converting the growth repellent, Sema3E, into a growth attractant and point to a type of semaphorin signaling different from the conventional signaling induced by full-size dimeric class 3 semaphorins.

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