Initially found expressed in neuronal and then later in endothelial cells, it is well established that the transmembrane glycoproteins neuropilin-1 (NRP1) and neuropilin-2 (NRP2) play essential roles in axonal growth and guidance and in physiological and pathological angiogenesis. Neuropilin expression and function in epithelial cells has received little attention when compared with neuronal and endothelial cells. Overexpression of NRPs is shown to enhance growth, correlate with invasion and is associated with poor prognosis in various tumour types, especially those of epithelial origin. The contribution of NRP and its ligands to tumour growth and metastasis has spurred a strong interest in NRPs as novel chemotherapy drug targets. Given NRP's role as a multifunctional co-receptor with an ability to bind with disparate ligand families, this has sparked new areas of research implicating NRPs in diverse biological functions. Here, we review the growing body of research demonstrating NRP expression and role in the normal and neoplastic epithelium.
© 2012 The Authors. International Journal of Experimental Pathology © 2012 International Journal of Experimental Pathology.