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Cancer Res. 2010 Jan 15;70(2):792-801. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-3166. Epub 2010 Jan 12.

Matrix metalloproteinase-9 functions as a tumor suppressor in colitis-associated cancer.

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  • 1Division of Digestive Diseases and Department of Pathology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.


There is a well-documented association of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) and receptor Notch-1 overexpression in colon cancer. We recently showed that MMP-9 is also upregulated in colitis, where it modulates tissue damage and goblet cell differentiation via proteolytic cleavage of Notch-1. In this study, we investigated whether MMP-9 is critical for colitis-associated colon cancer (CAC). Mice that are wild type (WT) or MMP-9 nullizygous (MMP-9(-/-)) were used for in vivo studies and the human enterocyte cell line Caco2-BBE was used for in vitro studies. CAC was induced in mice using an established carcinogenesis protocol that involves exposure to azoxymethane followed by treatment with dextran sodium sulfate. MMP-9(-/-) mice exhibited increased susceptibility to CAC relative to WT mice. Elevations in tumor multiplicity, size, and mortality were associated with increased proliferation and decreased apoptosis. Tumors formed in MMP-9(-/-) mice exhibited expression of p21(WAF1/Cip1) and increased expression of beta-catenin relative to WT mice. In vitro studies of MMP-9 overexpression showed increased Notch-1 activation with a reciprocal decrease in beta-catenin. Notch and beta-catenin/Wnt signaling have crucial roles in determining differentiation and carcinogenesis in gut epithelia. Despite being a mediator of proinflammatory responses in colitis, MMP-9 plays a protective role and acts as a tumor suppressor in CAC by modulating Notch-1 activation, thereby resulting in activation of p21(WAF1/Cip1) and suppression of beta-catenin.

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