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Cell. 2003 Jul 11;114(1):33-45.

Membrane type I matrix metalloproteinase usurps tumor growth control imposed by the three-dimensional extracellular matrix.

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Division of Molecular Medicine and Genetics, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


Cancer cells are able to proliferate at accelerated rates within the confines of a three-dimensional (3D) extracellular matrix (ECM) that is rich in type I collagen. The mechanisms used by tumor cells to circumvent endogenous antigrowth signals have yet to be clearly defined. We find that the matrix metalloproteinase, MT1-MMP, confers tumor cells with a distinct 3D growth advantage in vitro and in vivo. The replicative advantage conferred by MT1-MMP requires pericellular proteolysis of the ECM, as proliferation is fully suppressed when tumor cells are suspended in 3D gels of protease-resistant collagen. In the absence of proteolysis, tumor cells embedded in physiologically relevant ECM matrices are trapped in a compact, spherical configuration and unable to undergo changes in cell shape or cytoskeletal reorganization required for 3D growth. These observations identify MT1-MMP as a tumor-derived growth factor that regulates proliferation by controlling cell geometry within the confines of the 3D ECM.

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