Coordinate expression and functional profiling identify an extracellular proteolytic signaling pathway

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Apr 3;104(14):5771-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0606514104. Epub 2007 Mar 27.


A multidisciplinary method combining transcriptional data, specificity profiling, and biological characterization of an enzyme may be used to predict novel substrates. By integrating protease substrate profiling with microarray gene coexpression data from nearly 2,000 human normal and cancerous tissue samples, three fundamental components of a protease-activated signaling pathway were identified. We find that MT-SP1 mediates extracellular signaling by regulating the local activation of the prometastatic growth factor MSP-1. We demonstrate MT-SP1 expression in peritoneal macrophages, and biochemical methods confirm the ability of MT-SP1 to cleave and activate pro-MSP-1 in vitro and in a cellular context. MT-SP1 induced the ability of MSP-1 to inhibit nitric oxide production in bone marrow macrophages. Addition of HAI-1 or an MT-SP1-specific antibody inhibitor blocked the proteolytic activation of MSP-1 at the cell surface of peritoneal macrophages. Taken together, our work indicates that MT-SP1 is sufficient for MSP-1 activation and that MT-SP1, MSP-1, and the previously shown MSP-1 tyrosine kinase receptor RON are required for peritoneal macrophage activation. This work shows that this triad of growth factor, growth factor activator protease, and growth factor receptor is a protease-activated signaling pathway. Individually, MT-SP1 and RON overexpression have been implicated in cancer progression and metastasis. Transcriptional coexpression of these genes suggests that this signaling pathway may be involved in several human cancers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Humans
  • Macrophage Activation
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / cytology
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / enzymology
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Nitric Oxide / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Proteinase Inhibitory Proteins, Secretory / genetics
  • Proteinase Inhibitory Proteins, Secretory / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Serine Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Serine Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Proteinase Inhibitory Proteins, Secretory
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • SPINT1 protein, human
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • ST14 protein, human