Role of p75 neurotrophin receptor in stem cell biology: more than just a marker
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p75NTR, the common receptor for both neurotrophins and proneurotrophins, has been widely studied because of its role in many tissues, including the nervous system. More recently, a close relationship between p75NTR expression and pluripotency has been described. p75NTR was shown to be expressed in various types of stem cells and has been used to prospectively isolate stem cells with different degrees of potency. Here, we give an overview of the current knowledge on p75NTR in stem cells, ranging from embryonic to adult stem cells, and cancer stem cells. In an attempt to address its potential role in the control of stem cell biology, the molecular mechanisms underlying p75NTR signaling in different models are also highlighted. p75NTR-mediated functions include survival, apoptosis, migration, and differentiation, and depend on cell type, (pro)neurotrophin binding, interacting transmembrane co-receptors expression, intracellular adaptor molecule availability, and post-translational modifications, such as regulated proteolytic processing. It is therefore conceivable that p75NTR can modulate cell-fate decisions through its highly ramified signaling pathways. Thus, elucidating the potential implications of p75NTR activity as well as the underlying molecular mechanisms of p75NTR will shed new light on the biology of both normal and cancer stem cells.