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Breast Cancer Res. 2009;11(2):R24. doi: 10.1186/bcr2251. Epub 2009 Apr 30.

Tumour-associated tenascin-C isoforms promote breast cancer cell invasion and growth by matrix metalloproteinase-dependent and independent mechanisms.

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Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine, Infirmary Close, University of Leicester, Robert Kilpatrick Clinical Sciences Building, Leicester Royal Infirmary, Leicester, UK.



The stromal microenvironment has a profound influence on tumour cell behaviour. In tumours, the extracellular matrix (ECM) composition differs from normal tissue and allows novel interactions to influence tumour cell function. The ECM protein tenascin-C (TNC) is frequently up-regulated in breast cancer and we have previously identified two novel isoforms - one containing exon 16 (TNC-16) and one containing exons 14 plus 16 (TNC-14/16).


The present study has analysed the functional significance of this altered TNC isoform profile in breast cancer. TNC-16 and TNC-14/16 splice variants were generated using PCR-ligation and over-expressed in breast cancer cells (MCF-7, T47D, MDA-MD-231, MDA-MB-468, GI101) and human fibroblasts. The effects of these variants on tumour cell invasion and proliferation were measured and compared with the effects of the large (TNC-L) and fully spliced small (TNC-S) isoforms.


TNC-16 and TNC-14/16 significantly enhanced tumour cell proliferation (P < 0.05) and invasion, both directly (P < 0.01) and as a response to transfected fibroblast expression (P < 0.05) with this effect being dependent on tumour cell interaction with TNC, because TNC-blocking antibodies abrogated these responses. An analysis of 19 matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinases 1 to 4 (TIMP 1 to 4) revealed that TNC up-regulated expression of MMP-13 and TIMP-3 two to four fold relative to vector, and invasion was reduced in the presence of MMP inhibitor GM6001. However, this effect was not isoform-specific but was elicited equally by all TNC isoforms.


These results demonstrate a dual requirement for TNC and MMP in enhancing breast cancer cell invasion, and identify a significant role for the tumour-associated TNC-16 and TNC-14/16 in promoting tumour invasion, although these isoform-specific effects appear to be mediated through MMP-independent mechanisms.

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