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Br J Cancer. 2001 Jun 15;84(12):1664-70.

Spectrum of matrix metalloproteinase expression in primary and metastatic colon cancer: relationship to the tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases and membrane type-1-matrix metalloproteinase.

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Division of GI Surgery, The Academic Unit of Cancer Studies, University Hospital, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, UK.


The matrix metalloproteinases, MMP-2 and MMP-9, are capable of degrading components of the basement membrane, a vital barrier breached during the progression of colorectal cancer. The regulation of MMP-2 activation and subsequent targets is vital to understanding the metastatic process. MMP-2 was not expressed by colorectal cancer cells (C170 and C170HM(2)) in vitro but by stromal fibroblasts (46BR.1GI). There was induction of this MMP upon transwell co-cultivation of the colon cancer cells with the fibroblasts but in vivo growth did not lead to a similar increase in the metastatic tumour cells (C170HM(2)), MMP-2 again being attributed to the stromal cells. MMP-2 mRNA was overexpressed in human colorectal tumours compared to normal colorectal tissue, which correlated with Dukes' stage and immunolocalized to the stromal compartment of the tumour tissue. The active form of the MMP-2 enzyme was also present in the colorectal tumour tissue (7/8) but essentially absent in all normal colon samples examined (1/8). MMP-2 activation was not related to an increase in MT-1-MMP mRNA or a decrease in the specific inhibitor TIMP-2 in human tissue. There was however an increase in MMP-2/TIMP-2 ratio in tumour compared to normal. MMP-9, a target of active MMP-2, was present in the metastatic cell line but expression was down-regulated in the tumour cells in vivo, gelatin analysis revealed that MMP-9 was almost entirely attributable to the murine host, confirmed by PCR. There was no increase in mRNA for MMP-9 or its specific inhibitor TIMP-1 in colorectal tumour tissue compared to normal, MMP-9 protein localized to the inflammatory infiltrate. Fibroblast cells may provide malignant epithelial cells with a ready source of enzyme which is crucial to the metastatic process.

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