Plexin-A4 is a receptor for sema6A and sema6B and associates with neuropilins to transduce signals of class-3 semaphorins. We observed that plexin-A1 and plexin-A4 are required simultaneously for transduction of inhibitory sema3A signals and that they form complexes. Unexpectedly, inhibition of plexin-A1 or plexin-A4 expression in endothelial cells using specific shRNAs resulted in prominent plexin type specific rearrangements of the actin cytoskeleton that were accompanied by inhibition of bFGF and VEGF-induced cell proliferation. The two responses were not interdependent since silencing plexin-A4 in U87MG glioblastoma cells inhibited cell proliferation and strongly inhibited the formation of tumors from these cells without affecting cytoskeletal organization. Plexin-A4 formed stable complexes with the FGFR1 and VEGFR-2 tyrosine-kinase receptors and enhanced VEGF-induced VEGFR-2 phosphorylation in endothelial cells as well as bFGF-induced cell proliferation. We also obtained evidence suggesting that some of the pro-proliferative effects of plexin-A4 are due to transduction of autocrine sema6B-induced pro-proliferative signals, since silencing sema6B expression in endothelial cells and in U87MG cells mimicked the effects of plexin-A4 silencing and also inhibited tumor formation from the U87MG cells. Our results suggest that plexin-A4 may represent a target for the development of novel anti-angiogenic and anti-tumorigenic drugs.
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