Serine protease-induced enhancement of blood-borne metastasis of rat ascites tumour cells and its prevention with deoxyribonuclease

Br J Cancer. 1990 Oct;62(4):607-13. doi: 10.1038/bjc.1990.339.


Serine proteases, such as alpha-chymotrypsin or elastase, caused an aggregation of rat ascites tumour cell lines, AH-130, AH-109A and YS, in a protein free medium which preserved the cell viability. This aggregation, which was monitored spectrophotometrically, was dependent upon the protease activities and was resistant to treatment with either a calcium chelating reagent (EDTA) or neuraminidase. However, the tumour cell aggregates were redispersed by treatment with deoxyribonuclease I (DNase I). This dispersal effect was dependent upon the DNase activity. A possible relationship between the tumour cell aggregation and development of blood-borne metastasis was studied. An intravenous inoculation in rats of tumour cell aggregates performed by the alpha-chymotrypsin treatment resulted in significantly higher numbers of lung metastatic foci than an injection of single cells. When the re-separated single cells, prepared in vitro by treatment with DNase I following alpha-chymotrypsin treatment, were injected instead of the aggregates, the enhancement of metastasis was reversed. These enhancement and reversal effects were mimicked in vivo by intravenous injections of protease and nuclease following inoculation of a single cell suspension. That is, the number of metastatic foci caused by single cell inoculation followed by an intravenous alpha-chymotrypsin injection, was higher than that in a control group receiving PBS instead of alpha-chymotrypsin. Again, this augmentation was reversed by an injection of DNase I following alpha-chymotrypsin injection. Furthermore, an injection of DNase I alone itself reduced the starting number of metastases resulting from injection of the single tumour cell suspension. These data suggest that the metastatic behaviour of tumour cells may be increased by protease inducible DNA dependent cell aggregation should it occur in the blood stream.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Aggregation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Deoxyribonuclease I / pharmacology*
  • Edetic Acid / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / drug effects*
  • Protease Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Serine Endopeptidases / pharmacology*


  • Protease Inhibitors
  • DNA
  • Edetic Acid
  • Deoxyribonuclease I
  • Serine Endopeptidases