Association of trypsin expression with tumour progression and matrilysin expression in human colorectal cancer

J Pathol. 2003 Feb;199(2):176-84. doi: 10.1002/path.1277.


Overexpression of the matrix serine protease (MSP) trypsin has been implicated in tumour growth, invasion, and metastasis. The objective of this study was to clarify the clinicopathological and prognostic significance of trypsin expression in colorectal cancer. This study analysed the association between immunohistochemically detected trypsin expression in colorectal cancer and clinicopathological characteristics, and investigated whether trypsin is a predictor of recurrence and/or survival. Trypsin immunoreactivity was more intense at the invasive front than in the superficial part of the tumour. Sections with immunostaining signals in more than 30% of carcinoma cells at the invasive front, which were observed in 48 cases (48%), were judged to be positive for trypsin. Trypsin positivity was significantly correlated with depth of invasion, lymphatic and venous invasion, lymph node and distant metastasis, advanced pathological tumour-node-metastasis (TNM) stage, and recurrence. Patients with trypsin-positive carcinoma had significantly shorter overall and disease-free survival periods than did those with trypsin-negative carcinoma. Trypsin retained its significant predictive value for overall and disease-free survival in multivariate analysis that included conventional clinicopathological factors. It is well known that trypsin activates matrilysin (matrix metalloproteinase-7), which plays an important role in colorectal cancer progression. Patients with concordant overexpression of trypsin and matrilysin at the invasive front, in which they were often co-localized, had the worst prognosis. Trypsinogen-1-transfected HCT116 colon cancer cells showed not only trypsin activity, but also active matrilysin activity and were more invasive in vitro than mock-transfected HCT116 cells. These results suggest that trypsin plays a key role in the progression of colorectal cancer. Detection of trypsin expression as well as matrilysin is useful for the prediction of recurrence in and poor prognosis of colorectal cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / surgery
  • DNA, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Male
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 7 / analysis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / etiology
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • RNA, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • Transfection / methods
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Trypsin / analysis*
  • Trypsinogen / analysis
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Trypsinogen
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • Trypsin
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 7