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Cancer Res. 2004 Dec 1;64(23):8657-65.

Matrix metalloproteinase-26 is associated with estrogen-dependent malignancies and targets alpha1-antitrypsin serpin.

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  • 1Cell Adhesion and Extracellular Matrix Biology Program, Cancer Research Center, The Burnham Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


Proteases exert control over cell behavior and affect many biological processes by making proteolytic modification of regulatory proteins. The purpose of this paper is to describe novel, important functions of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-26. alpha1-Antitrypsin (AAT) is a serpin, the primary function of which is to regulate the activity of neutrophil/leukocyte elastase. Insufficient antiprotease activity because of AAT deficiency in the lungs is a contributing factor to early-onset emphysema. We recently discovered that AAT is efficiently cleaved by a novel metalloproteinase, MMP-26, which exhibits an unconventional PH(81)CGVPD Cys switch motif and is autocatalytically activated in cells and tissues. An elevated expression of MMP-26 in macrophages and polymorphonuclear leukocytes supports the functional role of MMP-26 in the AAT cleavage and inflammation. We have demonstrated a direct functional link of MMP-26 expression with an estrogen dependency and confirmed the presence of the estrogen-response element in the MMP-26 promoter. Immunostaining of tumor cell lines and biopsy specimen microarrays confirmed the existence of the inverse correlations of MMP-26 and AAT in cells/tissues. An expression of MMP-26 in the estrogen-dependent neoplasms is likely to contribute to the inactivation of AAT, to the follow-up liberation of the Ser protease activity, and because of these biochemical events, to promote matrix destruction and malignant progression. In summary, we hypothesize that MMP-26, by cleaving and inactivating the AAT serpin, operates as a unique functional link that regulates a coordinated interplay between Ser and metalloproteinases in estrogen-dependent neoplasms.

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