The Eph/ephrin receptor-ligand system plays an important role in embryogenesis and adult life, principally by influencing cell behavior through signaling pathways, resulting in modification of the cell cytoskeleton and cell adhesion. There are 10 EphA receptors, and six EphB receptors, distinguished on sequence difference and binding preferences, that interact with the six glycosylphosphatidylinositol-linked ephrin-A ligands and the three transmembrane ephrin-B ligands, respectively. The Eph/ephrin proteins, originally described as developmental regulators that are expressed at low levels postembryonically, are re-expressed after injury to the optic nerve, spinal cord, and brain in fish, amphibians, rodents, and humans. In rodent spinal cord injury, the up-regulation of EphA4 prevents recovery by inhibiting axons from crossing the injury site. Eph/ephrin proteins may be partly responsible for the phenotypic changes to the vascular endothelium in inflammation, which allows fluid and inflammatory cells to pass from the vascular space into the interstitial tissues. Specifically, EphA2/ephrin-A1 signaling in the lung may be responsible for pulmonary inflammation in acute lung injury. A role in T-cell maturation and chronic inflammation (heart failure, inflammatory bowel disease, and rheumatoid arthritis) is also reported. Although there remains much to learn about Eph/ephrin signaling in human disease, and specifically in injury and inflammation, this area of research raises the exciting prospect that novel therapies will be developed that precisely target these pathways.
Copyright © 2012 American Society for Investigative Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.