Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are endopeptidases that contribute to growth, development and wound healing as well as to pathologies such as arthritis and cancer. Until recently, it has been thought that MMPs participate in these processes simply by degrading extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules. However, it is now clear that MMP activity is much more directed and causes the release of cryptic information from the ECM. By precisely cleaving large insoluble ECM components and ECM-associated molecules, MMPs liberate bioactive fragments and growth factors and change ECM architecture, all of which influence cellular behavior. Thus, MMPs have become a focal point for understanding matrix biology.
Copyright 2004 Elsevier Ltd.