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J Biol Chem. 2005 Oct 7;280(40):34123-32. Epub 2005 Aug 9.

Identification of MMP-15 as an anti-apoptotic factor in cancer cells.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Max-Planck-Institute for Biochemistry, 82152 Martinsried, Germany.


We have performed an in vitro selection for an anti-apoptotic phenotype that resembles the selection process that pre-malignant cells undergo in the initial phase of carcinogenesis in vivo. Using the cervical carcinoma cell line HeLa S3 as a model system, the selection procedure yielded cell clones that displayed increased resistance to apoptosis induced by Fas, tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand, and serum starvation. Gene expression profiling using gene family focused cDNA arrays revealed numerous genes that are differentially expressed in HeLa S3 and the resistant subclones and therefore are potentially involved in the definition of sensitivity to apoptotic stimuli. From the genes identified in this functional genomics approach we validated the anti-apoptotic activity of the membrane-anchored matrix metalloproteinase 15 (MMP-15) by means of small interfering RNA-mediated knock-down and ectopic expression in parental HeLa S3 cells and, to confirm a more general significance of our findings, in other cancer cell lines. The in vivo relevance of these findings is supported by the overexpression of MMP-15 in human lung adenocarcinoma compared with normal lung. Because MMP-15 is known to promote invasion, our results suggest that this protease connects metastasis and apoptosis resistance by an unknown regulatory mechanism. Our findings therefore strongly suggest that cancer characteristics such as metastatic potential, which are thought to evolve late in cancer progression, could be manifested early on by selection for an anti-apoptotic phenotype.

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