Expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) in primary human breast cancer and breast cancer cell lines: New findings and review of the literature

BMC Cancer. 2009 Jun 16;9:188. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-9-188.


Background: Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a family of structural and functional related endopeptidases. They play a crucial role in tumor invasion and building of metastatic formations because of their ability to degrade extracellular matrix proteins. Under physiological conditions their activity is precisely regulated in order to prevent tissue disruption. This physiological balance seems to be disrupted in cancer making tumor cells capable of invading the tissue. In breast cancer different expression levels of several MMPs have been found.

Methods: To fill the gap in our knowledge about MMP expression in breast cancer, we analyzed the expression of all known human MMPs in a panel of twenty-five tissue samples (five normal breast tissues, ten grade 2 (G2) and ten grade 3 (G3) breast cancer tissues). As we found different expression levels for several MMPs in normal breast and breast cancer tissue as well as depending on tumor grade, we additionally analyzed the expression of MMPs in four breast cancer cell lines (MCF-7, MDA-MB-468, BT 20, ZR 75/1) commonly used in research. The results could thus be used as model for further studies on human breast cancer. Expression analysis was performed on mRNA and protein level using semiquantitative RT-PCR, Western blot, immunohistochemistry and immunocytochemistry.

Results: In summary, we identified several MMPs (MMP-1, -2, -8, -9, -10, -11, -12, -13, -15, -19, -23, -24, -27 and -28) with a stronger expression in breast cancer tissue compared to normal breast tissue. Of those, expression of MMP-8, -10, -12 and -27 is related to tumor grade since it is higher in analyzed G3 compared to G2 tissue samples. In contrast, MMP-7 and MMP-27 mRNA showed a weaker expression in tumor samples compared to healthy tissue. In addition, we demonstrated that the four breast cancer cell lines examined, are constitutively expressing a wide variety of MMPs. Of those, MDA-MB-468 showed the strongest mRNA and protein expression for most of the MMPs analyzed.

Conclusion: MMP-1, -2, -8, -9, -10, -11, -12, -13, -15, -19, -23, -24, -27 and -28 might thus be associated with breast cancer development and tumor progression. Therefore, these MMPs are proper candidates for further functional analysis of their role in breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Breast / enzymology
  • Breast Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / biosynthesis*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / genetics
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases