Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their specific tissue inhibitors (TIMPs) play an important role in cancer cell invasion and metastasis. Recently, it was shown that the presence of activated MMP-2 correlates with melanoma progression in vitro. This activation involves coordinated expression of MMP-2, membrane-type 1 MMP (MT1-MMP), and TIMP-2. To investigate the expression profile of these enzymes in human melanoma, this study used tumour specimens obtained from both a human melanoma xenograft model, consisting of eight melanoma cell lines with different metastatic capacity in nude mice, and 60 fresh human cutaneous melanocytic lesions comprising all stages of melanocytic tumour progression. MT1-MMP and TIMP-2 mRNA and protein were present in all cell lines. Cell surface expression level of MT1-MMP, as determined by flow cytometry, was similar on all cell lines. In addition, western blot analysis revealed that both inactive and active MT1-MMP protein was expressed by all cell lines. MMP-2 mRNA and the pro-enzyme form of MMP-2 were expressed by all cell lines. Remarkably, the presence of functionally active MMP-2 was restricted to the most aggressive cell lines MV3 and BLM. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis of RNA isolated from subcutaneous xenografts revealed MT1-MMP and TIMP-2 mRNA expression in all lesions, whereas MMP-2 mRNA could be detected only in xenografts derived from the highly metastatic cell lines 1F6m, MV3, and BLM. Furthermore, immunohistochemistry demonstrated a marked increase of MMP-2 and MT1-MMP in MV3 and BLM xenografts, whereas TIMP-2 expression showed no evident correlation with metastatic capacity. In human cutaneous melanocytic lesions, MMP-2, MT1-MMP, and TIMP-2 mRNA were detectable by RT-PCR in all lesions. Expression of MMP-2 protein was not detectable, either in common and atypical naevi, or in melanoma in situ by immunohistochemistry. In these lesions, heterogeneous expression of MT1-MMP and TIMP-2 was present in melanocytic cells. In contrast, a large number of MMP-2 and MT1-MMP-positive tumour cells were observed in primary melanomas and melanoma metastases. Double staining experiments and immunohistochemistry on serial sections from the same lesions demonstrated that all tumour cells expressing MMP-2 also expressed MT1-MMP and TIMP-2. Finally, zymography of melanoma metastases revealed that MMP-2 was present in its functionally active form. This study demonstrates that expression of MT1-MMP and TIMP-2 and activation of MMP-2 are correlated with tumour progression both in the xenograft model and in human melanocytic lesions, strongly suggesting that these factors are required for melanoma invasion and metastasis formation.
Copyright 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.