MT1-MMP correlates with MMP-2 activation potential seen after epithelial to mesenchymal transition in human breast carcinoma cells

Clin Exp Metastasis. 1997 Mar;15(2):111-20. doi: 10.1023/a:1018444609098.


We have previously reported that human breast carcinoma (HBC) cell lines expressing the mesenchymal intermediate filament protein vimentin (VIM+) are highly invasive in vitro, and highly metastatic in nude mice when compared to their VIM- counterparts. Since only VIM+ cell lines can be induced to activate matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) upon stimulation with Concanavalin A (Con A), we have examined here membrane type 1 MMP (MT1-MMP), a cell surface activator of MMP-2. Northern analysis reveals baseline expression of MT1-MMP in five of the six VIM+ cell lines studied (MDA-MB-231, MDA-MB-435, BT-549, Hs578T, MCF-7(ADR)), each of which showed variable activation of exogenous MMP-2 after treatment with Con A. In contrast, the four VIM-, poorly invasive HBC cell lines studied (MCF-7, T47D, MDA-MB 468, ZR-75-1) lacked baseline MT1-MMP mRNA expression, and showed no induction of either MT1-MMP expression or MMP-2-activation with Con A. Such differential MT1-MMP expression was confirmed in vivo using in situ hybridization analysis of nude mouse tumor xenografts of representative cell lines. Western analysis of the MDA-MB-231 cells revealed baseline membrane expression of a 60 kDa species, which was strongly induced by Con A treatment along with a weaker band co-migrating with that from MT1-MMP-transfected COS-1 cells (63 kDa), presumably representing latent MT1-MMP. MT1-MMP immunofluorescence strongly decorated Con A-stimulated MDA-MB-231 cells in a manner consistent with membranous staining, but did not decorate the unstimulated MDA-MB-231 cells or MCF-7 cells under either condition. Collectively, the results suggest the constitutive production of active MT1-MMP which is unavailable for either MMP-2 activation or immuno-decoration until Con A treatment. Since VIM expression arises by virtue of the so-called epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) in invasive embryonic epithelia, we propose that this represents a major metastasis mechanism in breast carcinomas. MT1-MMP on the surface of such 'fibroblastoid' carcinoma cells may mediate a paracrine loop for the utilization of stromally produced MMP-2, and contribute to the poorer survival associated with VIM+ breast carcinomas.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Breast Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Concanavalin A / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Gelatinases / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 14
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases, Membrane-Associated
  • Metalloendopeptidases / analysis
  • Metalloendopeptidases / genetics
  • Metalloendopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Transplantation, Heterologous
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Vimentin / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Mmp14 protein, mouse
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Vimentin
  • Concanavalin A
  • Gelatinases
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases, Membrane-Associated
  • Metalloendopeptidases
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 14