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Cancer Metastasis Rev. 1990 Dec;9(4):333-52.

Cathepsin B and its endogenous inhibitors: the role in tumor malignancy.

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Department of Pharmacology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48201.


Several lysosomal proteinases including the cysteine proteinase cathepsin B have been implicated in malignant progression of tumors. Many investigators have demonstrated correlations between increased activity of cathepsin B and increased metastatic capability of animal tumors or malignancy of human tumors. Such increases in cathepsin B activity in malignant tumors may reflect alterations in synthesis, in activation and processing, and/or in intracellular trafficking and delivery as well as in the endogenous inhibitors of cathepsin B. Increases in mRNA transcripts for cathepsin B have been observed in both murine and human tumors and multiple transcripts for cathepsin B have been identified, but an association of multiple transcripts with malignancy has not been confirmed. Cathepsin B precursors found in human malignant ascites fluid do not possess mannose-rich carbohydrates suggesting that a defect in the post translational processing of carbohydrate moieties on tumor cathepsin B may be responsible for the release of cathepsin B observed in many tumor systems. However, the intracellular trafficking of cathepsin B responsible for its association with plasma membrane/endosomal systems and for its release will require further study as both latent, precursor forms of cathepsin B and native forms of cathepsin B are involved. We speculate that malignant tumor cells adherent to basement membrane are capable of forming a digestive microenvironment in which lysosomal proteinases such as cathepsin B function optimally, a microenvironment similar to that formed between adherent osteoclasts and bone. One of the endogenous cysteine proteinase inhibitors, stefin A, also is affected by malignancy. Reduced expression (mRNA and protein) of stefin A is found as well as a reduction in its inhibitory capacity against cysteine proteinases. The data to date at both the molecular and protein levels supporting a functional role(s) for cathepsin B and its endogenous inhibitors in cancer progression are only correlative. Experimental approaches utilizing well-defined model systems in conjunction with genetic manipulation of cathepsin B and its endogenous inhibitors are needed to provide convincing evidence that cathepsin B has an important role in cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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