This review outlines new concepts that are emerging for the functions of matrix metalloproteinases in colorectal cancer development and progression. The two main concepts that will be discussed are the role of matrix metalloproteinases in the early stages of colorectal tumour development and the functional mechanisms by which matrix metalloproteinases contribute to colorectal tumour invasion and metastasis. The matrix metalloproteinases are a group of enzymes, which have been best characterized for their ability to degrade extracellular matrix proteins and thus they have been extensively studied in tumour invasion. It is now becoming recognized that the matrix metalloproteinases have key roles in a variety of biological processes that are distinct from their well-defined role in matrix degradation. This group of enzymes has been shown to interact with a broad range of non-matrix proteins including growth factors and their receptors, mediators of apoptosis, and cell adhesion molecules. The elucidation of novel biological roles for the matrix metalloproteinases also challenges the current predominant concept of matrix metalloproteinases as enzymes only involved in matrix degradation. Recent studies have shown that several matrix metalloproteinases, especially matrilysin (MMP-7), interact with the specific molecular genetic and signalling pathways involved in colorectal cancer development. In particular, matrilysin is activated at an early stage of colorectal tumourigenesis by the beta-catenin signalling pathway. Furthermore, studies are now elucidating specific mechanisms by which individual matrix metalloproteinases, especially membrane-type matrix metalloproteinases, interact with specific cell adhesion molecules and cytoskeletal proteins and thus contribute dynamically to colorectal tumour invasion.
Copyright 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.