Differential expression of protease-activated receptors-1 and -2 in stromal fibroblasts of normal, benign, and malignant human tissues

Am J Pathol. 2001 Jun;158(6):2031-41. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)64675-5.


The serine proteases thrombin and trypsin are among many factors that malignant cells secrete into the extracellular space to mediate metastatic processes such as cellular invasion, extracellular matrix degradation, angiogenesis, and tissue remodeling. The degree of protease secretion from malignant cells has been correlated to their metastatic potential. Protease activated receptors (PAR)-1 and -2, which are activated by thrombin and trypsin respectively, have not been extensively characterized in human tumors in situ. We investigated the presence of PAR-1 and PAR-2 in human normal, benign and malignant tissues using immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization. Our results demonstrate PAR-1 and PAR-2 expression in the tumor cells, mast cells, macrophages, endothelial cells, and vascular smooth muscle cells of the metastatic tumor microenvironment. Most notably, an up-regulation of PAR-1 and PAR-2 observed in proliferating, smooth muscle actin (SMA)-positive stromal fibroblasts surrounding the carcinoma cells was not observed in normal or benign conditions. Furthermore, in vitro studies using proliferating, SMA-positive, human dermal fibroblasts, and scrape-wounded human dermal fibroblasts demonstrated the presence of PAR-1 and PAR-2 not detected in quiescent, SMA-negative cultures. PAR-1 and PAR-2 in the cells forming the tumor microenvironment suggest that these receptors mediate the signaling of secreted thrombin and trypsin in the processes of cellular metastasis.

MeSH terms

  • Actins / analysis
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Carcinoma / genetics
  • Carcinoma / metabolism
  • Cell Division
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Neoplasm / biosynthesis
  • Receptor, PAR-1
  • Receptor, PAR-2
  • Receptors, Thrombin / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Thrombin / genetics
  • Stromal Cells / metabolism*


  • Actins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Receptor, PAR-1
  • Receptor, PAR-2
  • Receptors, Thrombin