Cripto is a small, GPI-anchored signaling protein that regulates cellular survival, proliferation, differentiation and migration during normal developmental processes and tumorigenesis. Cripto functions as an obligatory co-receptor for the TGF-β ligands Nodal, GDF1 and GDF3 but attenuates signaling of others such as activin-A, activin-B and TGF-β1. Soluble, secreted forms of Cripto also activate Src, ras/raf/MAPK and PI3K/Akt pathways via a mechanism that remains largely obscure. This review describes the biological roles and signaling mechanisms of Cripto, highlighting our identification of the 78 kDa glucose regulated protein (GRP78) as a cell surface receptor/co-factor required for Cripto signaling via both TGF-β and Src/MAPK/PI3K pathways. We discuss emerging evidence indicating that Cripto/GRP78 signaling regulates normal somatic stem cells and their tumorigenic counterparts.
Copyright © 2012 Federation of European Biochemical Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.