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Am J Pathol. 1998 Jun;152(6):1489-99.

Collagenase-3 (matrix metalloproteinase-13) expression is induced in oral mucosal epithelium during chronic inflammation.

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


Increased proliferation of mucosal epithelium during inflammation is associated with degradation of subepithelial connective tissue matrix and local invasion of the epithelial cells. Here we have studied, whether collagenase-3 (MMP-13), a collagenolytic matrix metalloproteinase with an exceptionally wide substrate specificity, is expressed in the epithelium of chronically inflamed mucosa. Examination of human gingival tissue sections from subjects with chronic adult periodontitis with in situ hybridization revealed marked expression of MMP-13 in basal cells of some epithelial rete ridges expanding into connective tissue. Immunohistochemical staining demonstrated that these cells also expressed strongly laminin-5, suggesting that they are actively migrating cells. A strong signal for MMP-13 mRNA was occasionally also noted in the suprabasal epithelial cells facing the gingival pocket, whereas no collagenase-1 (MMP-1) mRNA was detected in any areas of the epithelium. MMP-13 expression was also detected in fibroblast-like cells associated with collagen fibers of the inflamed subepithelial connective tissue. In organ culture of human oral mucosa, MMP-13 mRNA expression was observed in epithelial cells growing into connective tissue of the specimens. Regulation of MMP-13 expression was examined in cultured normal nonkeratinizing epithelial cells isolated from porcine periodontal ligament. In these cells, MMP-13 expression at the mRNA and protein level was potently enhanced (up to sixfold) by tumor necrosis factor-alpha, transforming growth factor-beta(1), and transforming growth factor-alpha and by keratinocyte growth factor in the presence of heparin. In addition, plating periodontal ligament epithelial cells on type I collagen stimulated MMP-13 expression (sevenfold) as compared with cells grown on tissue culture plastic. The results of this study show, that expression of MMP-13 is specifically induced in undifferentiated epithelial cells during chronic inflammation due to exposure to cytokines and collagen. Thus, it is likely that MMP-13 expression is instrumental in the subepithelial collagenolysis and local invasion of the activated mucosal epithelium into the connective tissue.

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