Neuropilin-1 (Np1) and neuropilin-2 (Np2) are transmembrane glycoproteins with large extracellular domains that interact with both class 3 semaphorins and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and are involved in the regulation of many physiological pathways, including angiogenesis. The neuropilins also interact directly with the classical receptors for VEGF, VEGF-R1 and -R2, mediating signal transduction. The heart, glomeruli and osteoblasts express both Np1 and Np2, but there is differential expression in the adult vasculature, with Np1 expressed mainly by arterial endothelium, whereas Np2 is only expressed by venous and lymphatic endothelium. Both neuropilins are commonly over-expressed in regions of physiological (wound-healing) and pathological (tumour) angiogenesis, but the signal transduction pathways, neuropilin-mediated gene expression and the definitive role of neuropilins in angiogenic processes are not fully characterized. This review details the current evidence for the role of neuropilins in angiogenesis, and suggests future research directions that may enhance our understanding of the mechanisms of action of this unique family of proteins.
Copyright (c) 2007 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.