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Br J Cancer. 1998 Mar;77(5):724-30.

Differential expression of matrix metalloproteinases in activated c-ras-Ha-transfected immortalized human keratinocytes.

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University of Arizona, Arizona Cancer Center, Department of Radiation Oncology, Tucson 85724, USA.


Elevated expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), a family of secreted proteinases that degrade matrix components of basement membranes and connective tissues, is strongly correlated with malignant expression in various human epithelial cancers and epithelial cancer cell lines. We have tested whether elevated levels of MMP expression are also associated with malignant progression in human cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. Constitutive levels of expression of steady-state mRNA and of secreted protein encoded by three MMP genes (matrilysin, gelatinases A and B) were compared in a unique in vitro model of human skin carcinogenesis. This model is composed of the parental immortalized non-tumorigenic human keratinocyte line (HaCaT), and three activated c-Harvey-ras-oncogene transfected variants (A-4, I-7 and II-4). Although clone A-4 is non-tumorigenic, clones I-7 and II-4 exhibit benign and malignant tumorigenic phenotypes, respectively, after subcutaneous injection into athymic nude mice. Northern blot, Western blot, and zymogram analyses revealed three MMP-specific patterns of expression. Constitutive matrilysin mRNA expression was markedly increased in the I-7 cells compared with HaCaT, A-4 or II-4 cells. Secreted promatrilysin was distinctly increased in the tumorigenic I-7 and II-4 cells compared with the non-tumorigenic HaCaT and A-4 cells. Gelatinase A mRNA and secreted gelatinase A protein levels were increased in each transfectant compared with HaCaT. Both active and inactive forms of gelatinase A were detected. Gelatinase B transcripts were not detected, but an EDTA-inhibitable gelatinase activity comigrating with gelatinase B was moderately enhanced in both tumorigenic variants compared with the non-tumorigenic cells. Because promatrilysin and 92-kDa gelatinase secretion were increased in both benign and malignant tumorigenic cells, and not related to invasiveness in this model, it is concluded that enhanced constitutive expression of these two MMPs is associated with acquisition of the tumorigenic phenotype, before acquisition of the malignant phenotype.

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