Neuropilin structure governs VEGF and semaphorin binding and regulates angiogenesis

Angiogenesis. 2008;11(1):31-9. doi: 10.1007/s10456-008-9097-1. Epub 2008 Feb 19.


Neuropilins (NRP) play a central role in neuronal and blood vessel development as receptors for two ligand types, the semaphorin (SEMA) family of axon guidance modulators and the VEGF family of angiogenesis stimulators. The role of NRPs in axon guidance is well documented but a role in blood vessel development is less so. NRPs mediate normal developmental angiogenesis as shown in mouse and zebrafish models, and pathological angiogenesis in tumors and retinal disease. The ability of two disparate ligand families to bind to the same receptor is unusual but may be explainable by analysis of neuropilin structure. There are two NRP genes, nrp1 and nrp2. The NRPs have a relatively large extracellular domain consisting of sub domains, which are ligand binding sites. VEGF(165) binds to the b1b2 subdomain, SEMA3A and SEMA3F also bind to b1b2 but to a1a2 as well. Mutagenesis studies have identified NRP amino acids that bind VEGF(165) but not SEMA3F. These NRP structural elements might dictate differential SEMA and VEGF(165) binding properties, which in turn regulate angiogenesis. This article reviews the latest information of NRP structure and how structure influences angiogenesis. In addition, the role of NRPs in human cancer is addressed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / pathology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / physiopathology
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / physiology*
  • Neuropilins / chemistry*
  • Neuropilins / physiology*
  • Protein Binding / physiology
  • Semaphorins / metabolism*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors / metabolism*


  • Neuropilins
  • Semaphorins
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors