Pleiotrophin, a Multifunctional Tumor Promoter Through Induction of Tumor Angiogenesis, Remodeling of the Tumor Microenvironment, and Activation of Stromal Fibroblasts

Cell Cycle. 2007 Dec 1;6(23):2877-83. doi: 10.4161/cc.6.23.5090.


Pleiotrophin (PTN, Ptn) is a widely expressed, developmentally regulated 136 amino acid secreted heparin-binding cytokine. It signals through a unique signaling pathway; the PTN receptor is the transmembrane receptor protein tyrosine phosphatase (RPTP)beta/zeta. RPTPbeta/zeta is inactivated by PTN, which leads to increased tyrosine phosphorylation of the downstream targets of the PTN/RPTPbeta/zeta signaling pathway. Pleiotrophin gene expression is found in cells in early differentiation during different developmental periods. It is upregulated in cells with an early differentiation phenotype in wound repair. The Ptn gene also is a proto-oncogene; PTN is expressed in human tumor cells, and, in cell lines derived from human tumors that express Ptn, Ptn expression is constitutive and thus "inappropriate". Importantly, properties of different cells induced by PTN in PTN-stimulated cells are strikingly similar to properties of highly malignant cells. Furthermore, transformed cells into which Ptn is introduced undergo "switches" to malignant cells of higher malignancy with properties that are strikingly similar to properties of PTN-stimulated cells. These unique features of PTN support the conclusion that constitutive PTN signaling in malignant cells that inappropriately express Ptn functions as a potent tumor promoter. Recently, in confirmation, Ptn targeted by the mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) promoter in a transgenic mouse model was found to promote breast cancers to a more aggressive breast cancer cell phenotype that morphologically closely resembles scirrhous carcinoma in human; in addition, it promoted a striking increase in tumor angiogenesis and a remarkable degree of remodeling of the micro-environment. Pleiotrophin thus regulates both different normal and pathological functions; collectively, the different studies have uncovered the unique ability of a single cytokine PTN, which signals through the unique PTN/RPTPbeta/zeta signaling pathway, to induce the many properties associated with tumor promotion in the malignant cells that constitutively express Ptn and in their microenvironment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Carrier Proteins / physiology*
  • Cytokines / physiology*
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism*
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Growth Substances / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / pathology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stromal Cells / metabolism
  • Stromal Cells / pathology


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cytokines
  • Growth Substances
  • pleiotrophin