The urokinase plasminogen activator system in breast cancer invasion and metastasis

Biomed Pharmacother. 2013 Mar;67(2):179-82. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2012.10.003. Epub 2012 Nov 15.


The urokinase plasminogen activator system, which is a serine protease family include urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA), the uPA receptor and plasminogen activator inhibitors (PAIs). uPA catalyzes the transformation of plasminogen to its active form plasmin, which is able to degrade the extracellular matrix (ECM) and basement membranes, directly or indirectly through activating pro-matrix metalloproteinases (pro-MMPs), promoting cancer cell metastasis and invasion. Both uPA and PAI-1 are poor prognosis markers in primary breast cancer. Evidence has been presented that the uPA system facilitates breast cancer metastasis by several different mechanisms, such as the Ras-ERK pathway and p38 MAPK pathway. This review focuses on uPA system, summarizes their biological effects, highlights the molecular mechanism and pathway, and discusses the role of uPA system in the prevention and treatment of human breast cancers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Plasminogen Inactivators / genetics
  • Plasminogen Inactivators / metabolism
  • Receptors, Urokinase Plasminogen Activator / genetics
  • Receptors, Urokinase Plasminogen Activator / metabolism
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator / genetics*
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator / metabolism*


  • Plasminogen Inactivators
  • Receptors, Urokinase Plasminogen Activator
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator