Adaptor proteins are named for their function in assembling complexes of cellular proteins to execute and facilitate transmission of signals. The Crk family of adaptors consists of 2 members, Crk and CrkL. Crk, which was originally isolated as an oncogene, v-Crk, that transforms CEFs, has at least 2 splice variants, CrkI and CrkII, with differing biological activities. All Crk family proteins serve to act as molecular bridges between tyrosine kinases and their substrates and also modulate the specificity and stoichiometry of signaling processes. Signaling via CrkII and CrkL can be negatively regulated via tyrosine phosphorylation-mediated autoinhibition, while such a mechanism is not known to exist for CrkI. Although v-Crk clearly functions as a bona fide oncogene, in recent years, an emerging body of evidence suggests that cellular Crk proteins are overexpressed in human tumors and the expression levels correlate with aggressive and malignant behavior of cancer cells. These properties of Crk proteins make them potential cancer prognosis markers and therapeutic targets.
Keywords: Crk adaptor proteins; cell motility; human cancer; malignant phenotype.