The Delta-Notch pathway is an evolutionarily conserved signaling pathway which controls a broad range of developmental processes including cell fate determination, terminal differentiation and proliferation. In mammals, four Notch receptors (NOTCH1-4) and five activating canonical ligands (JAGGED1, JAGGED2, DLL1, DLL3 and DLL4) have been described. The precise function of noncanonical Notch ligands remains unclear. Delta-like 1 homolog (DLK1), the best studied noncanonical Notch ligand, has been shown to act as an inhibitor of Notch signaling in vitro, but its function in vivo is poorly understood. In this review we summarize Notch signaling during development and highlight recent studies in DLK1expression that reveal new insights into its function.
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