The neuropilins NRP1 and NRP2 are transmembrane proteins that regulate many different aspects of vascular and neural development. Even though they were originally identified as adhesion molecules, they are most commonly studied as co-receptors for secreted signalling molecules of the class 3 semaphorin (SEMA) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) families. During nervous system development, both classes of ligands control soma migration, axon patterning and synaptogenesis in the central nervous system, and they additionally help to guide the neural crest cell precursors of neurons and glia in the peripheral nervous system. Both classes of neuropilin ligands also control endothelial cell behaviour, with NRP1 acting as a VEGF-A isoform receptor in blood vascular endothelium and as a semaphorin receptor in lymphatic valve endothelium, and NRP2 promoting lymphatic vessel growth induced by VEGF-C. Here we provide an overview of neuropilin function in neurons and neural crest cells, discuss current knowledge of neuropilin signalling in the vasculature and conclude with a summary of neuropilin roles in cancer.
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