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Am J Pathol. 2003 Apr;162(4):1183-90.

Cathepsin D specifically cleaves the chemokines macrophage inflammatory protein-1 alpha, macrophage inflammatory protein-1 beta, and SLC that are expressed in human breast cancer.

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Theodor-Kocher Institute, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.


Cathepsin D (Cath-D) expression in human primary breast cancer has been associated with a poor prognosis. In search of a better understanding of the Cath-D substrates possibly involved in cancer invasiveness and metastasis, we investigated the potential interactions between this protease and chemokines. Here we report that purified Cath-D, as well as culture supernatants from the human breast carcinoma cell lines MCF-7 and T47D, selectively degrade macrophage inflammatory protein (MIP)-1 alpha (CCL3), MIP-1 beta (CCL4), and SLC (CCL21). Proteolysis was totally blocked by the protease inhibitor pepstatin A, and specificity of Cath-D cleavage was demonstrated using a large chemokine panel. Whereas MIP-1 alpha and MIP-1 beta degradation was rapid and complete, cleavage of SLC was slow and not complete. Mass spectrometry analysis showed that Cath-D cleaves the Leu(58) to Trp(59) bond of SLC producing two functionally inactive fragments. Analysis of Cath-D proteolysis of a series of monocyte chemoattractant protein-3/MIP-1 beta hybrids indicated that processing of MIP-1 beta might start by cleaving off amino acids located in the C-terminal domain. In situ hybridization studies revealed MIP-1 alpha, MIP-1 beta, and Cath-D gene expression mainly in the stromal compartment of breast cancers whereas SLC transcripts were found in endothelial cells of capillaries and venules within the neoplastic tissues. Cath-D production in the breast carcinoma cell lines MCF-7 and T47D, as assessed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay of culture supernatants and cell lysates, was not affected by stimulation with chemokines such as interleukin-8 (CXCL8), SDF-1 (CXCL12), and SLC. These data suggest that inactivation of chemokines by Cath-D possibly influences regulatory mechanisms in the tumoral extracellular microenvironment that in turn may affect the generation of the antitumoral immune response, the migration of cancer cells, or both processes.

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