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Cancer Res. 2006 Mar 1;66(5):2716-24.

Matrix metalloproteinase 26 proteolysis of the NH2-terminal domain of the estrogen receptor beta correlates with the survival of breast cancer patients.

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  • 1The Burnham Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


Estrogens have many cellular functions, including their interactions with estrogen receptors alpha and beta (ERalpha and ERbeta). Earlier, we determined that the estrogen-ER complex stimulates the transcriptional activity of the matrix metalloproteinase 26 (MMP-26) gene promoter. We then determined that ERbeta is susceptible to MMP-26 proteolysis whereas ERalpha is resistant to the protease. MMP-26 targets the NH(2)-terminal region of ERbeta coding for the divergent NH(2)-terminal A/B domain that is responsible for the ligand-independent transactivation function. As a result, MMP-26 proteolysis generates the COOH-terminal fragments of ERbeta. Immunohistochemical analysis of tissue microarrays derived from 121 cancer patients corroborated these data and revealed an inverse correlation between the ERalpha-dependent expression of MMP-26 and the levels of the intact ERbeta in breast carcinomas. MMP-26 is not expressed in normal mammary epithelium. The levels of MMP-26 are strongly up-regulated in ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). In the course of further disease progression through stages I to III, the expression of MMP-26 decreases. In contrast to many tumor-promoting MMPs, the expression of MMP-26 in DCIS correlated with a longer patient survival. Our data suggest the existence of an MMP-26-mediated intracellular pathway that targets ERbeta and that MMP-26, a novel and valuable cancer marker, contributes favorably to the survival of the ERalpha/beta-positive cohort of breast cancer patients.

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