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Int J Cancer. 2003 Sep 1;106(3):355-63.

Active stromelysin-3 (MMP-11) increases MCF-7 survival in three-dimensional Matrigel culture via activation of p42/p44 MAP-kinase.

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INSERM U526, Equipe labellisée LNC, Faculté de Médecine Pasteur, Avenue de Valombrose, 06107 Nice Cedex 2, France.


Stromelysin-3 (ST3) has the characteristic structure of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP), but its substrate specificity and pattern of expression differ markedly from that of other MMP family members. ST3 was originally isolated on the basis of its expression in primary breast cancers and has been shown to be overexpressed in virtually all primary carcinomas, suggesting that ST3 participates in the initial development of epithelial malignancies. Recent data using murine models reported that ST3 expression was able to increase tumor take by suppressing cell apoptosis. Our present goal was to set up an in vitro model in which we could study this new function. For this purpose, we analyzed survival of MCF-7 transfectants expressing either wild-type or catalytically inactive ST3 (ST3wt or ST3cat-) in three-dimensional (3-D) culture conditions by inclusion in Matrigel. In such conditions, that mimic the in vivo microenvironment, we found a marked decrease in the percentage of cell death when active ST3 was expressed (ST3wt transfectants vs. ST3cat- or vector only transfectants) as assessed by FACS and TUNEL analysis. The addition of batimastat, a broad spectrum MMP inhibitor, reversed the increased cell survival in ST3wt transfectants, confirming that ST3 enzymatic activity was required for this effect. Finally, we analyzed the expression of anti- and pro-apoptotic proteins as well as activation of cell survival pathways and we found that ST3-mediated cell survival was accompanied by activation of both p42/p44 MAPK and AKT. Our data confirm and extend the anti-apoptotic function of ST3 and provide a useful model to dissect this new role and identify new physiological substrates.

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