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      Notch receptor–ligand binding and activation: Insights from molecular studies

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          ► We review the high resolution structures of the Notch receptor and ligands. ► Highlight the docking events of Notch receptor and ligand at the cell surface. ► Indicate the future challenges in understanding Notch receptor–ligand interactions.


          The Notch receptor is part of a core signalling pathway which is highly conserved in all metazoan species. It is required for various cell fate decisions at multiple stages of development and in the adult organism, with dysregulation of the pathway associated with genetic and acquired diseases including cancer. Although cellular and in vivo studies have provided considerable insight into the downstream consequences of Notch signalling, relatively little is known about the molecular basis of the receptor/ligand interaction and initial stages of activation. Recent advances in structure determination of the extracellular regions of human Notch-1 and one of its ligands Jagged-1 have given new insights into docking events occurring at the cell surface which may facilitate the development of new highly specific therapies. We review the structural data available for receptor and ligands and identify the challenges ahead.

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          The canonical Notch signaling pathway: unfolding the activation mechanism.

          Notch signaling regulates many aspects of metazoan development and tissue renewal. Accordingly, the misregulation or loss of Notch signaling underlies a wide range of human disorders, from developmental syndromes to adult-onset diseases and cancer. Notch signaling is remarkably robust in most tissues even though each Notch molecule is irreversibly activated by proteolysis and signals only once without amplification by secondary messenger cascades. In this Review, we highlight recent studies in Notch signaling that reveal new molecular details about the regulation of ligand-mediated receptor activation, receptor proteolysis, and target selection.
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            Activating mutations of NOTCH1 in human T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

            Very rare cases of human T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) harbor chromosomal translocations that involve NOTCH1, a gene encoding a transmembrane receptor that regulates normal T cell development. Here, we report that more than 50% of human T-ALLs, including tumors from all major molecular oncogenic subtypes, have activating mutations that involve the extracellular heterodimerization domain and/or the C-terminal PEST domain of NOTCH1. These findings greatly expand the role of activated NOTCH1 in the molecular pathogenesis of human T-ALL and provide a strong rationale for targeted therapies that interfere with NOTCH signaling.
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              Blockade of Dll4 inhibits tumour growth by promoting non-productive angiogenesis.

              Tumour growth requires accompanying expansion of the host vasculature, with tumour progression often correlated with vascular density. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is the best-characterized inducer of tumour angiogenesis. We report that VEGF dynamically regulates tumour endothelial expression of Delta-like ligand 4 (Dll4), which was previously shown to be absolutely required for normal embryonic vascular development. To define Dll4 function in tumour angiogenesis, we manipulated this pathway in murine tumour models using several approaches. Here we show that blockade resulted in markedly increased tumour vascularity, associated with enhanced angiogenic sprouting and branching. Paradoxically, this increased vascularity was non-productive-as shown by poor perfusion and increased hypoxia, and most importantly, by decreased tumour growth-even for tumours resistant to anti-VEGF therapy. Thus, VEGF-induced Dll4 acts as a negative regulator of tumour angiogenesis; its blockade results in a striking uncoupling of tumour growth from vessel density, presenting a novel therapeutic approach even for tumours resistant to anti-VEGF therapies.

                Author and article information

                Semin Cell Dev Biol
                Semin. Cell Dev. Biol
                Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology
                Academic Press
                June 2012
                June 2012
                : 23
                : 4
                : 421-428
                [a ]Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, UK
                [b ]Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, UK
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author. Tel.: +44 1865613256. penny.handford@
                © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

                This document may be redistributed and reused, subject to certain conditions.



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