Membrane-type 1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP) has been implicated as a physiological activator of progelatinase A (MMP-2). We previously reported that plasmin treatment of cells results in proMMP-2 activation and increased type IV collagen degradation. Here, we analyzed the role of MT1-MMP in plasmin activation of MMP-2 using HT-1080 cells transfected with MT1-MMP sense or antisense cDNA. Control, vector-transfected cells that expressed endogenous MT1-MMP, and antisense cDNA transfectants with very low levels of MT1-MMP did not activate proMMP-2. Conversely, cells transfected with sense MT1-MMP cDNA expressed high MT1-MMP levels and processed proMMP-2 to 68/66-kDa intermediate activation products. Control cells and MT1-MMP transfectants had much higher levels of cell-associated MMP-2 than antisense cDNA transfectants. Addition of plasmin(ogen) to control or MT1-MMP-transfected cells generated active, 62-kDa MMP-2, but was ineffective with antisense cDNA transfectants. The effect of plasmin(ogen) was prevented by inhibitors of plasmin, but not by metalloproteinase inhibitors, implicating plasmin as a mechanism for proMMP-2 activation independent of the activity of MT1-MMP or other MMPs. Plasmin-mediated activation of proMMP-2 did not result from processing of proMT1-MMP and did not correlate with alpha(v)beta(3) integrin or TIMP-2 levels. Thus, plasmin can activate proMMP-2 only in the presence of MT1-MMP; however, this process does not require the catalytic activity of MT1-MMP.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.