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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010 Jan;1803(1):39-54. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamcr.2009.09.015. Epub 2009 Oct 1.

Matrix metalloproteinases: what do they not do? New substrates and biological roles identified by murine models and proteomics.

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Department of Oral Biological and Medical Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z3.


The biological roles of the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) have been traditionally associated with the degradation and turnover of most of the components of the extracellular matrix (ECM). This functional misconception has been used for years to explain the involvement of the MMP family in developmental processes, cell homeostasis and disease, and led to clinical trials of MMP inhibitors for the treatment of cancer that failed to meet their endpoints and cast a shadow on MMPs as druggable targets. Accumulated evidence from a great variety of post-trial MMP degradomics studies, ranging from transgenic models to recent state-of-the-art proteomics screens, is changing the dogma about MMP functions. MMPs regulate cell behavior through finely tuned and tightly controlled proteolytic processing of a large variety of signaling molecules that can also have beneficial effects in disease resolution. Moreover, net proteolytic activity relies upon direct interactions between the different protease and protease inhibitor families, interconnected in a complex protease web, with MMPs acting as key nodal components. Such complexity renders simple interpretation of Mmp knockout mice very difficult. Indeed, the phenotype of these models reveals the response of a complex system to the loss of one protease rather than necessarily a direct effect of the lack of functional activity of a protease. Such a shift in the MMP functional paradigm, together with the difficulties associated with current methods of studying proteases this highlights the need for new high content degradomics approaches to uncover and annotate MMP activities in vivo and identify novel interactions within the protease web. Integration of these techniques with specifically designed animal models for final validation should lay the foundations for the development of new inhibitors that specifically target disease-related MMPs and/or their upstream effectors that cause deleterious effects in disease, while sparing MMP functions that are protective.

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