Eph receptors and ephrins: therapeutic opportunities

Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 2015:55:465-87. doi: 10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-011112-140226. Epub 2014 Oct 3.


The erythropoietin-producing hepatocellular carcinoma (Eph) receptor tyrosine kinase family plays important roles in developmental processes, adult tissue homeostasis, and various diseases. Interaction with Eph receptor-interacting protein (ephrin) ligands on the surface of neighboring cells triggers Eph receptor kinase-dependent signaling. The ephrins can also transmit signals, leading to bidirectional cell contact-dependent communication. Moreover, Eph receptors and ephrins can function independently of each other through interplay with other signaling systems. Given their involvement in many pathological conditions ranging from neurological disorders to cancer and viral infections, Eph receptors and ephrins are increasingly recognized as attractive therapeutic targets, and various strategies are being explored to modulate their expression and function. Eph receptor/ephrin upregulation in cancer cells, the angiogenic vasculature, and injured or diseased tissues also offer opportunities for Eph/ephrin-based targeted drug delivery and imaging. Thus, despite the challenges presented by the complex biology of the Eph receptor/ephrin system, exciting possibilities exist for therapies exploiting these molecules.

Keywords: angiogenesis; cancer; neurological disease; tyrosine kinase; viral infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cardiovascular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / drug therapy
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Drug Design*
  • Ephrins / genetics
  • Ephrins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy / methods*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Nervous System Diseases / drug therapy
  • Nervous System Diseases / metabolism
  • Nervous System Diseases / physiopathology
  • Receptors, Eph Family / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Eph Family / genetics
  • Receptors, Eph Family / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*
  • Virus Diseases / drug therapy
  • Virus Diseases / metabolism
  • Virus Diseases / virology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Cardiovascular Agents
  • Ephrins
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Eph Family