Matrix metalloproteinase 2 (MMP-2) plays a crucial role in invasion and metastasis of malignant tumors. Membrane type 1-MMP (MT1-MMP) was originally identified as an activator of MMP-2. Tissue inhibitor of MMP-2 (TIMP-2) was identified as an inhibitor of MMP-2 and MT1-MMP. However, TIMP-2 was reported to be essential for cell-mediated activation of MMP-2 and thus, the contribution of TIMP-2 to tumor invasion has remained controversial. This study was designed to analyze the role of TIMP-2 for activation of MMP-2 and its prognostic value in tongue squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Expression of MMP-2, MT1-MMP and TIMP-2 protein was analyzed by immunohistochemistry, and their association with clinical factors was evaluated in 51 patients treated surgically for tongue SCC. Expression of MMP-2, MT1-MMP and TIMP-2 was significantly correlated with local and distant metastatic tumor recurrence and poor prognosis (MMP-2 and MT1-MMP, p < 0.0001; TIMP-2, p = 0.0002). Activation of MMP-2, analyzed by gelatin zymography in 17 fresh specimens, was remarkably associated with expression of MMP-2 (r = 0.779, p < 0.0001), MT1-MMP (r = 0.674, p < 0.0022) and TIMP-2 (r = 0.858, p < 0.0001). Increased expression of TIMP-2, as well as MMP-2 and MT1-MMP, was an important prognostic factor in patients with tongue SCC.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.