Fibroblast activation protein-alpha and dipeptidyl peptidase IV (CD26): cell-surface proteases that activate cell signaling and are potential targets for cancer therapy

Drug Resist Updat. Feb-Apr 2005;8(1-2):51-8. doi: 10.1016/j.drup.2005.03.002. Epub 2005 Apr 7.


Fibroblast activation protein-alpha (FAP-alpha) and dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPPIV) are serine proteases with post-prolyl peptidase activities that can modify tumor cell behavior. FAP-alpha and DPPIV can form heteromeric complexes with each other and may function coordinately to modulate the growth, differentiation, adhesion, and metastasis of tumor cells. This review is focused on FAP-alpha and summarizes a series of studies showing that elevated expression of FAP-alpha results in profound changes in growth and malignant behavior of tumor cells. Depending on the model system investigated, FAP-alpha expression causes dramatic promotion or suppression of tumor growth. In the case of tumor promotion, FAP-alpha expression can drive tumor growth by increasing angiogenesis and by decreasing the anti-tumor response of the immune system. In the case of tumor suppression, FAP-alpha can decrease tumorigenicity of mouse melanoma cells and restore contact inhibition and growth factor dependence even when it is catalytically inactive, implying that protein-protein interactions mediate these effects. Understanding how FAP-alpha activates cell signaling is critical to determining how FAP-alpha mediates growth promotion versus growth suppression in the different model systems and ultimately in human cancer patients. In particular, the roles of FAP-alpha protease activity and FAP-alpha complex formation with DPPIV and other surface molecules in activating cell signaling need to be elucidated since these represent potential targets for therapeutic intervention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogens / metabolism
  • Carcinogens / pharmacology
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Dipeptidyl Peptidase 4* / immunology
  • Dipeptidyl Peptidase 4* / metabolism
  • Dipeptidyl Peptidase 4* / physiology
  • Gelatinases* / metabolism
  • Gelatinases* / pharmacology
  • Gelatinases* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins* / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins* / pharmacology
  • Membrane Proteins* / physiology
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / prevention & control
  • Serine Endopeptidases* / metabolism
  • Serine Endopeptidases* / pharmacology
  • Serine Endopeptidases* / physiology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Carcinogens
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Dipeptidyl Peptidase 4
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • fibroblast activation protein alpha
  • Gelatinases