Syndecans, cell surface heparansulfate proteoglycans, have been proposed to act as cell surface receptors and/or coreceptors to play critical roles in multiple cellular functions. However, recent reports suggest that the function of syndecans can be further extended through shedding, a cleavage of extracellular domain. Shedding constitutes an additional level for controlling the function of syndecans, providing a means to attenuate and/or regulate amplitude and duration of syndecan signals by modulating the activity of syndecans as cell surface receptors. Whether these remaining cleavage products are still capable of functioning as cell surface receptors to efficiently transduce signals inside of cells is not clear. However, shedding transforms cell surface receptor syndecans into soluble forms, which, like growth factors, may act as novel ligands to induce cellular responses by association with other cell surface receptors. It is becoming interestingly evident that shed syndecans also contribute significantly to syndecan functions in cancer biology. This review presents current knowledge about syndecan shedding and its functional significance, particularly in the context of cancer.
- Matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)