Elevated p21ras expression is associated with tumor aggressiveness in breast cancer including the extent of invasion into fat tissues, infiltration into lymphatic vessels and tumor recurrence. In the present study, we have examined the roles of H-ras and N-ras, members of the human ras gene family, in the pathogenesis of breast cancer. We show that H-ras, but not N-ras, induces an invasive phenotype in human breast epithelial cells (MCF10A) as determined by the Matrigel invasion assay, whereas both H-ras and N-ras induce anchorage-independent growth, as shown by soft agar assay. We examined the effects of H-ras and N-ras activation on the expression of MMP-2 and MMP-9, which can degrade type IV collagen, the major structural collagen of the basement membrane. We show that MMP-2 is efficiently induced by H-ras, whereas MMP-9 induction is more prominent in N-ras-activated MCF10A cells. We also show that H-ras-mediated invasiveness is significantly inhibited when the expression of MMP-2 is down-regulated, using an oligodeoxyribonucleotide complementary to the MMP-2 mRNA, or when MMP-2 activity is blocked by its inhibitor TIMP-2 (tissue inhibitors of matrix metalloproteinase-2). Our results show that the H-ras-induced invasive phenotype is associated more closely with the expression of MMP-2 in human breast epithelial cells, rather than the induction of MMP-9 expression, as shown previously for rat embryonic fibroblasts.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.