The role of the epidermal growth factor-like protein dlk in cell differentiation


  • Jorge Laborda


EGF-like, homeotic genes, adipogenesis, neuroendocrine, differentiation


This review focuses on the current knowledge about the function of the EGF-like homeotic protein dlk. dlk is a transmembrane protein that possesses six Epidermal Growth Factor-like sequences at the extracellular domain, a single transmembrane domain and a short intracellular tail. Because of its overall structure and amino acid homology, dlk belongs to the EGF-like homeotic protein family. This family includes proteins such as the Notch receptor and its homologues, as well as Notch ligands, such as Delta, Serrate, and their mammalian homologues DIl1, D112 and D113 and Jagged 1 and Jagged 2. (For a recent review see Fleming, 1998). dlk is highly expressed by preadipose cell lines, and neuroendocrine tumors, such as pheochromocytomas and neuroblastomas. dlk has been involved in several differentiation processes, such as adipogenesis, hematopoiesis and B cell lymphopoiesis, and neuroendocrine differentiation, including the differentiation of pancreas and the adrenal gland. The extracellular region of dlk can be released by action of an unknown protease and this soluble dlk variant accumulates in the amniotic fluid and is able to inhibit adipocyte differentiation in vitro. Recent evidence indicates, however, that membrane-associated dlk variants play a positive role in the differentiation process. These findings suggest that dlk plays an important role in differentiation and tumorigenesis of several cellular types.




Invited Reviews