Unravelling the distinct biological functions and potential therapeutic applications of TIMP2 in cancer

Carcinogenesis. 2022 Jun 4;43(5):405-418. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgac037.


Tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs) are a conserved family of proteins that were originally identified as endogenous inhibitors of matrixin and adamalysin endopeptidase activity. The matrixins and adamalysins are the major mediators of extracellular matrix (ECM) turnover, thus making TIMPs important regulators of ECM structure and composition. Despite their high sequence identity and relative redundancy in inhibitory profiles, each TIMP possesses unique biological characteristics that are independent of their regulation of metalloproteinase activity. As our understanding of TIMP biology has evolved, distinct roles have been assigned to individual TIMPs in cancer progression. In this respect, data regarding TIMP2's role in cancer have borne conflicting reports of both tumor suppressor and, to a lesser extent, tumor promoter functions. TIMP2 is the most abundant TIMP family member, prevalent in normal and diseased mammalian tissues as a constitutively expressed protein. Despite its apparent stable expression, recent work highlights how TIMP2 is a cell stress-induced gene product and that its biological activity can be dictated by extracellular posttranslational modifications. Hence an understanding of TIMP2 molecular targets, and how its biological functions evolve in the progressing tumor microenvironment may reveal new therapeutic opportunities. In this review, we discuss the continually evolving functions of TIMP proteins, future perspectives in TIMP research, and the therapeutic utility of this family, with a particular focus on TIMP2.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Mammals
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Proteolysis
  • Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinases* / genetics
  • Tumor Microenvironment / genetics


  • Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinases