CXCR4-SDF-1 signalling, locomotion, chemotaxis and adhesion

J Mol Histol. 2004 Mar;35(3):233-45. doi: 10.1023/b:hijo.0000032355.66152.b8.


Chemokines, small pro-inflammatory chemoattractant cytokines, that bind to specific G-protein-coupled seven-span transmembrane receptors present on plasma membranes of target cells are the major regulators of cell trafficking. In addition some chemokines have been reported to modulate cell survival and growth. Moreover, compelling evidence is accumulating that cancer cells may employ several mechanisms involving chemokine-chemokine receptor axes during their metastasis that also regulate the trafficking of normal cells. Of all the chemokines, stromal-derived factor-1 (SDF-1), an alpha-chemokine that binds to G-protein-coupled CXCR4, plays an important and unique role in the regulation of stem/progenitor cell trafficking. First, SDF-1 regulates the trafficking of CXCR4+ haemato/lymphopoietic cells, their homing/retention in major haemato/lymphopoietic organs and accumulation of CXCR4+ immune cells in tissues affected by inflammation. Second, CXCR4 plays an essential role in the trafficking of other tissue/organ specific stem/progenitor cells expressing CXCR4 on their surface, e.g., during embryo/organogenesis and tissue/organ regeneration. Third, since CXCR4 is expressed on several tumour cells, these CXCR4 positive tumour cells may metastasize to the organs that secrete/express SDF-1 (e.g., bones, lymph nodes, lung and liver). SDF-1 exerts pleiotropic effects regulating processes essential to tumour metastasis such as locomotion of malignant cells, their chemoattraction and adhesion, as well as plays an important role in tumour vascularization. This implies that new therapeutic strategies aimed at blocking the SDF-1-CXCR4 axis could have important applications in the clinic by modulating the trafficking of haemato/lymphopoietic cells and inhibiting the metastatic behaviour of tumour cells as well. In this review, we focus on a role of the SDF-1-CXCR4 axis in regulating the metastatic behaviour of tumour cells and discuss the molecular mechanisms that are essential to this process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Cell Movement / physiology*
  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Chemokines, CXC / metabolism*
  • Chemotaxis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • CXCL12 protein, human
  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Chemokines, CXC
  • Receptors, CXCR4