Immune plexins and semaphorins: old proteins, new immune functions

Protein Cell. 2013 Jan;4(1):17-26. doi: 10.1007/s13238-012-2108-4. Epub 2013 Jan 11.


Plexins and semaphorins are a large family of proteins that are involved in cell movement and response. The importance of plexins and semaphorins has been emphasized by their discovery in many organ systems including the nervous (Nkyimbeng-Takwi and Chapoval, 2011; McCormick and Leipzig, 2012; Yaron and Sprinzak, 2012), epithelial (Miao et al., 1999; Fujii et al., 2002), and immune systems (Takamatsu and Kumanogoh, 2012) as well as diverse cell processes including angiogenesis (Serini et al., 2009; Sakurai et al., 2012), embryogenesis (Perala et al., 2012), and cancer (Potiron et al., 2009; Micucci et al., 2010). Plexins and semaphorins are transmembrane proteins that share a conserved extracellular semaphorin domain (Hota and Buck, 2012). The plexins and semaphorins are divided into four and eight subfamilies respectively based on their structural homology. Semaphorins are relatively small proteins containing the extracellular semaphorin domain and short intracellular tails. Plexins contain the semaphorin domain and long intracellular tails (Hota and Buck, 2012). The majority of plexin and semaphorin research has focused on the nervous system, particularly the developing nervous system, where these proteins are found to mediate many common neuronal cell processes including cell movement, cytoskeletal rearrangement, and signal transduction (Choi et al., 2008; Takamatsu et al., 2010). Their roles in the immune system are the focus of this review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / immunology
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunity*
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / immunology
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Semaphorins / immunology
  • Semaphorins / metabolism*


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Semaphorins
  • plexin