Intracellular substrate cleavage: a novel dimension in the biochemistry, biology and pathology of matrix metalloproteinases

Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. 2010 Oct;45(5):351-423. doi: 10.3109/10409238.2010.501783.


Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), originally discovered to function in the breakdown of extracellular matrix proteins, have gained the status of regulatory proteases in signaling events by liganding and processing hormones, cytokines, chemokines, adhesion molecules and other membrane receptors. However, MMPs also cleave intracellular substrates and have been demonstrated within cells in nuclear, mitochondrial, various vesicular and cytoplasmic compartments, including the cytoskeletal intracellular matrix. Unbiased high-throughput degradomics approaches have demonstrated that many intracellular proteins are cleaved by MMPs, including apoptotic regulators, signal transducers, molecular chaperones, cytoskeletal proteins, systemic autoantigens, enzymes in carbohydrate metabolism and protein biosynthesis, transcriptional and translational regulators, and proteins in charge of protein clearance such as lysosomal and ubiquitination enzymes. Besides proteolysis inside cells, intracellular proteins may also be modulated by MMPs in the extracellular milieu. Indeed, many intracellular proteins exit cells by non-classical secretion mechanisms or by various conditions of cell death by apoptosis, necrosis and NETosis, and become accessible to extracellular proteases. Intracellular substrate proteolysis by MMPs is involved in innate immune defense and apoptosis, and affects oncogenesis and pathology of cardiac, neurological, protein conformational and autoimmune diseases, including ischemia-reperfusion injury, cardiomyopathy, Parkinson's disease, cataract, multiple sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Since the same MMP may affect physiology and pathology in different and even opposite ways, depending on its extracellular or subcellular localization, an additional layer of complexity is added to therapeutic MMP inhibition. Hence, further elucidation of intracellular MMP localizations and intracellular substrate proteolysis is a new challenge in MMP research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Death
  • Humans
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Necrosis / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Matrix Metalloproteinases