ASPORIN: A root of the matter in tumors and their host environment

Biochim Biophys Acta Rev Cancer. 2024 Jan;1879(1):189029. doi: 10.1016/j.bbcan.2023.189029. Epub 2023 Nov 24.


Asporin (ASPN) has been identified as one of the members of the class I small leucine-rich proteoglycans (SLRPs) family in the extracellular matrix (ECM). It is involved in classic ensigns of cancers such as self-dependent growth, resistance to growth inhibitors, restricting apoptosis, cancer metastasis, and bone-related disorders. ASPN is different from other members of SLRPs, such as decorin (DCN) and biglycan (BGN), in a way that it contains a distinctive length of aspartate (D) residues in the amino (N) -terminal region. These D-repeats residues possess germline polymorphisms and are identified to be linked with cancer progression and osteoarthritis (OA). The polyaspartate stretch in the N-terminal region of the protein and its resemblance to DCN are the reasons it is called asporin. In this review, we comprehensively summarized and updated the dual role of ASPN in various malignancies, its structure in mice and humans, variants, mutations, cancer-associated signalings and functions, the relationship between ASPN and cancer-epithelial, stromal fibroblast crosstalk, immune cells and immunosuppression in cancer and other diseases. In cancer and other bone-related diseases, ASPN is identified to be regulating various signaling pathways such as TGFβ, Wnt/β-catenin, notch, hedgehog, EGFR, HER2, and CD44-mediated Rac1. These pathways promote cancer cell invasion, proliferation, and migration by mediating the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) process. Finally, we discussed mouse models mimicking ASPN in vivo function in cancers and the probability of therapeutic targeting of ASPN in cancer cells, fibrosis, and other bone-related diseases.

Keywords: Asporin; ECM; EMT; PLAP-1; SLRPs; TGFβ.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins* / genetics
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta


  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta