Midkine (MK) and pleiotrophin (PTN) are low molecular weight proteins with closely related structures. They are mainly composed of two domains held by disulfide bridges, and there are three antiparallel beta-sheets in each domain. MK and PTN promote the growth, survival, and migration of various cells, and play roles in neurogenesis and epithelial mesenchymal interactions during organogenesis. A chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan, protein-tyrosine phosphatase zeta (PTPzeta), is a receptor for MK and PTN. The downstream signaling system includes ERK and PI3 kinase. MK binds to the chondroitin sulfate portion of PTPzeta with high affinity. Among the various chondroitin sulfate structures, the E unit, which has 4,6-disulfated N-acetylgalactosamine, provides the strongest binding site. The expression of MK and PTN is increased in various human tumors, making them promising as tumor markers and as targets for tumor therapy. MK and PTN expression also increases upon ischemic injury. MK enhances the migration of inflammatory cells, and is involved in neointima formation and renal injury following ischemia. MK is also interesting from the viewpoints of the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, increasing the efficiency of in vitro development, and the prevention of HIV infection.
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