Cell migration is pivotal in embryo development and in the adult. During development a wide range of progenitor cells travel over long distances before undergoing terminal differentiation. Moreover, the morphogenesis of epithelial tissues and of the cardiovascular system involves remodelling compact cell layers and sprouting of new tubular branches. In the adult, cell migration is essential for leucocytes involved in immune response. Furthermore, invasive and metastatic cancer cells have the distinctive ability to overcome normal tissue boundaries, travel in and out of blood vessels, and settle down in heterologous tissues. Cell migration normally follows strict guidance cues, either attractive, or inhibitory and repulsive. Semaphorins are a wide family of signals guiding cell migration during development and in the adult. Recent findings have established that semaphorin receptors, the plexins, govern cell migration by regulating integrin-based cell substrate adhesion and actin cytoskeleton dynamics, via specific monomeric GTPases. Plexins furthermore recruit tyrosine kinases in receptor complexes, which allows switching between multiple signaling pathways and functional outcomes. In this article, we will review the functional role of semaphorins in cell migration and the implicated molecular mechanisms controlling cell adhesion.
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