The alpha 3 beta 1 integrin is elevated in several types of metastatic tumor and has been associated with increased migration and invasion. Our analysis of a series of mammary carcinomas of different histotypes and their corresponding metastases demonstrated significantly increased expression of alpha 3 beta 1 in the tumor metastases. We therefore studied alpha 3 beta 1 expression of several human breast carcinoma cell lines and its association with the invasive phenotype. The MDA-MB-231 cell line expressed high levels of the beta1, alpha 2, alpha 3, alpha 5, and alpha 6 integrin subunits along with moderate levels of the alpha v beta 3 integrin. This line was highly migratory and the most invasive using a chemo-invasion assay. In contrast, the other lines tested, MDA-MB-145, MCF-7, and SK-BR-3, showed lower migratory and invasive activity and reduced alpha 3 integrin subunit expression. Metalloproteases capable of degrading collagen IV are necessary for the invasive process. RT-PCR showed that MDA-MB-231 cells expressed MMP-9, but not MMP-2, gelatinase/collagenase IV. Gelatin zymography demonstrated that invading MDA-MB-231 cells released high levels of MMP-9 gelatinase activity. A direct role for this gelatinase in MDA-MB-231 cell invasion was confirmed by inhibition of invasion using the metalloprotease inhibitor Batimastat. Treatment of MDA-MB-231 cells with a function-blocking anti-alpha 3 antibody strongly inhibited migration and invasion. This correlated with a marked reduction in MMP-9 activity produced by MDA-MB-231 cells, suggesting a role for alpha 3 beta 1 ligand binding in cell signaling and regulation of extracellular matrix degradation.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.