Membrane-type metalloproteinases in tumor invasion

Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 1998 Nov;30(11):1195-202. doi: 10.1016/s1357-2725(98)00083-1.


Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are members of a multigene family of zinc-dependent enzymes involved in the degradation of numerous extracellular matrix (ECM) components. Among these enzymes, membrane-type MMPs (MT-MMPs) play a major role in the activation of progelatinase A (MMP-2). The molecular structure of these enzymes is characterized by a transmembrane domain and the presence of an insertion of 11 amino-acids between the pro-peptide and the catalytic domains, which may be cleaved by furin-like enzymes leading to the activated form of the enzymes. MT1-MMP appears to play a dual role in extracellular matrix remodeling through activation of progelatinase A and procollagenase 3 and direct cleavage of some ECM macromolecules such as gelatin, type I collagen and fibronectin. Tissue inhibitor of MMPs-2 (TIMP-2) serves as an intermediate in progelatinase A activation by binding to MT1-MMP and progelatinase A on the plasma membrane. In vivo, MT1-MMP is overexpressed in malignant tumor tissues in which it was mainly localized in stromal cells surrounding the neoplastic tissue. These peritumoral fibroblasts, under particular stimuli, would be induced to overexpress MT1-MMP and consequently activate gelatinase A leading to ECM degradation. The expression of MT1-MMP is however observed in vitro in the invasive tumor cells which might represent an late stage of tumor progression. All these data confirm the important role of MT-MMPs in tumor invasion and highlight a cooperation between tumor and stromal cells for the production of these enzymes. The contribution of MMPs in a metastatic process leads to the development of novel therapies using inhibitors of these enzymes. Among a multitude of synthetic inhibitors generated, Marimastat is already clinically employed in cancer treatment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases, Membrane-Associated
  • Metalloendopeptidases / chemistry
  • Metalloendopeptidases / physiology*
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness*
  • Substrate Specificity


  • MMP17 protein, human
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases, Membrane-Associated
  • Metalloendopeptidases