Netrins as prophylactic targets in skeletal diseases: A double-edged sword?

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The netrin family of proteins are involved in axon guidance during central nervous system development. In vertebrates, two membrane bound forms and five secreted forms of netrin have been reported. In addition to their critical role in neural morphogenesis, a growing number of reports suggest that netrin family proteins also play a role in inflammatory conditions, angiogenesis, and tumorigenesis. In these processes, Unc5 and DCC family proteins serve as receptors of netrin proteins. Recently, it was reported that some netrin family proteins may be involved in the pathogenesis of skeletal diseases including osteoporosis and arthritis. For example, administration of secreted netrin family proteins such as netrin 1 and netrin 4 has prophylactic potential in pathogenic bone degradation in mice. However, netrin 1 blocking antibody also protects mice from inflammatory bone destruction. Therefore, netrin family proteins are involved in the regulation of bone homeostasis, but their bona fide roles in the skeletal system remain controversial. In this review, we discuss the osteo-innate-immune functions of the netrin family of proteins, and summarize their therapeutic potential.Graphical abstractModel of the regulation of osteoclast fusion by netrin 1. Netrin 1 is secreted from osteoblasts or synovial cells and inhibits osteoclast fusion by inhibiting Vav3-Rac1 signaling.

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