Detection of regional lymph node metastases in colon cancer by using RT-PCR for matrix metalloproteinase 7, matrilysin

Clin Exp Metastasis. 1998 Jan;16(1):3-8. doi: 10.1023/a:1006576032722.


Lymph node metastasis is the most important prognostic factor in colon cancer. However, more accurate screening for metastasis than that afforded by conventional pathology remains elusive. We have employed a reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay for a matrix metalloproteinase (MMP), 'matrilysin', because this gene is epithelial-specific and consistently expressed in colorectal cancer cells. The sensitivity of this assay was examined with the matrilysin-producing rectal cancer cell line 'CaR-1'. Matrilysin mRNA was detected in this system when more than 10(4) matrilysin-positive cells existed in a lymph node of ordinary size. Fourteen of 15 (93%) primary colon cancers and none of the surrounding normal tissues expressed matrilysin. All 10 histologically-positive lymph nodes were positive for matrilysin, while of 60 histologically-negative lymph nodes, eight were positive for matrilysin. When the additional sequential sectioning and histological re-examination was performed on five of these eight 'matrilysin-positive, but histologically-negative' lymph nodes, micrometastases were detected in three. Only one of the lymph nodes that were histologically-positive, but negative by matrilysin assay was from a patient with colon cancer in which matrilysin was not detected. In conclusion, RT-PCR assay for matrilysin is a sensitive method for detecting occult metastases in patients with colon cancer, and may complement histologic examination.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / metabolism*
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis* / pathology
  • Male
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 7
  • Metalloendopeptidases / genetics
  • Metalloendopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Neoplasm / metabolism


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Metalloendopeptidases
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 7