Gene ablation in mice offers a powerful tool to assay in vivo the role of selected molecules. Numerous new mouse models of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) deficiency have been developed in the past 5 years and have yielded a new understanding of the role of MMPs while also putting to rest assumptions based on data predating the days of mouse models. The phenotype of the MT1-MMP deficient mouse is one example which illustrates the sometimes rather surprising insights into extracellular matrix remodeling in development and growth that can be gained with mouse genetics. While MT1-MMP appears to play little or no role in embryonic development, loss of this enzyme results in progressive impairment of postnatal growth and development affecting both the skeleton and the soft connective tissues. The underlying pathologic mechanism is loss of an indispensable collagenolytic activity, which remains essentially uncompensated. Our findings demonstrate that growth and maintenance of the skeleton requires coordinated and simultaneous MT1-MMP-dependent remodeling of all soft tissue attachments (ligaments, tendons, joint capsules). We note that the phenotype of the MT1-MMP deficient mouse bears no resemblance to those of mice deficient in MMP-2 and tissue inhibitors of metallo-proteinase (TIMP)-2 all but dispelling the view that activation of MMP-2 by the MT1-MMP/TIMP-2/proMMP-2 axis plays a significant role in growth and development throughout life. It is of interest to note that loss of a single catabolic function such as selective collagen degradation mediated by MT1-MMP gives rise to profound impairment of a number of both anabolic and catabolic functions.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.