Vertebrate laminins and netrins share N-terminal domain structure, but appear to be only distantly related. Both families can be divided into different subfamilies on the basis of structural considerations. Recent observations suggest that specific laminin and netrin members have developmental functions that are highly conserved across species. Vertebrate laminin-1 (alpha1beta1gamma1) and laminin-10 (alpha5beta1gamma1), like the two Caenorhabditis elegans laminins, are embryonically expressed and are essential for basement membrane assembly. Basement membrane assembly is a cooperative process in which laminins polymerize through their LN domains and anchor to the cell surface through their G domains; this leads to cell signaling through integrins and dystroglycan (and possibly other receptors) recruited to the adherent laminin. Netrins may associate with this network through heterotypic LN domain interactions. Vertebrate netrin-1, like invertebrate UNC-6/netrins, is well known as an extracellular guidance cue that directs axon migration towards or away from the ventral midline. It also regulates cell adhesions and migrations, probably as a basement membrane component. Although sharing structural features, these two vertebrate protein families are quite distinct, having both retained members that mediate the ancestral developmental functions.
Copyright 2004 Elsevier Ltd.