Matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) is a stroma-derived MMP belonging to the type IV collagenase family. It is believed to mediate tumor cell behavior by degrading deposits of type IV collagen, a major component of the basement membrane. The membrane type 1-MMP (MT1-MMP) is a highly potent activator of MMP-2 and is expressed in many tumor and stromal cells. However, the roles played by stromal MMP-2 in tumor progression in vivo remain poorly understood. We established a colon epithelial cell line from an Mt1-mmp-/- mouse strain and transfected these cells with an inducible expression system for MT1-MMP (MT1rev cells). Following s.c. implantation into Mmp-2+/+ mice and induction of MT1-MMP expression, MT1rev cells grew rapidly, whereas they grew very slowly in Mmp-2-/- mice, even in the presence of MT1-MMP. This MT1-MMP-dependent tumor growth of MT1rev cells was enhanced in Mmp-2-/- mice as long as MMP-2 was supplied via transfection or coimplantation of MMP-2-positive fibroblasts. MT1rev cells cultured in vitro in a three-dimensional collagen gel matrix also required the MT1-MMP/MMP-2 axis for rapid proliferation. MT1rev cells deposit type IV collagen primarily at the cell-collagen interface, and these deposits seem scarce at sites of invasion and proliferation. These data suggest that cooperation between stroma-derived MMP-2 and tumor-derived MT1-MMP may play a role in tumor invasion and proliferation via remodeling of the tumor-associated basement membrane. To our knowledge, this is the first study demonstrating that MT1-MMP-dependent tumor growth in vivo requires stromal-derived MMP-2. It also suggests that MMP-2 represents a potential target for tumor therapeutics.
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