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J Cell Mol Med. 2008 Apr;12(2):391-408. Epub 2007 Dec 14.

The functions and possible significance of Kremen as the gatekeeper of Wnt signalling in development and pathology.

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Division of Tumor Dynamics and Regulation, Molecular and Cellular Targeting Translational Oncology Center, Cancer Research Institute, Kanazawa University, Japan.


Kremen (Krm) was originally discovered as a novel transmembrane protein containing the kringle domain. Both Krm1 (the first identified Krm) and its relative Krm2 were later identified to be the high-affinity receptors for Dickkopf (Dkk), the inhibitor of Wnt/beta-catenin signalling. The formation of a ternary complex composed of Krm, Dkk, and Lrp5/6 (the coreceptor of Wnt) inhibits Wnt/beta-catenin signalling. In Xenopus gastrula embryos, Wnt/beta-catenin signalling regulates anterior-posterior patterning, with low-signalling in anterior regions. Inhibition of Krm1/2 induces embryonic head defects. Together with anterior localization of Krms and Dkks, the inhibition of Wnt signalling by Dkk-Krm action seems to allow anterior embryonic development. During mammalian development, krm1 mRNA expression is low in the early stages, but gradually and continuously increases with developmental progression and differentiation. In contrast with the wide, strong expression of krm1 mRNA in mature tissues, expression of krm1 is diminished in a variety of human tumor cells. Since stem cells and undifferentiated cells rely on Wnt/beta-catenin signalling for maintenance in a low differentiation state, the physiological shutdown of Wnt/beta-catenin signalling by Dkk-Krm is likely to set cells on a divergent path toward differentiation. In tumour cells, a deficit of Krm may increase the susceptibility to tumourigenic transformation. Both positive and negative regulation of Wnt/beta-catenin signalling definitively contributes to diverse developmental and physiological processes, including cell-fate determination, tissue patterning and stem cell regulation. Krm is quite significant in these processes as the gatekeeper of the Wnt/beta-catenin signalling pathway.

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