Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are zinc-endopeptidases that play roles in numerous pathophysiological processes and therefore are promising drug targets. However, the large size of this family and a lack of highly selective compounds that can be used for imaging or inhibition of specific MMPs members has limited efforts to better define their biological function. Here we describe a protein engineering strategy coupled with small molecule probe design to selectively target individual members of the MMP family. Specifically, we introduce a cysteine residue near the active site of a selected protease that does not alter its overall activity or function but allows direct covalent modification by a small molecule probe containing a reactive electrophile. This specific engineered interaction between the probe and the target protease provides a means to both image and inhibit the modified protease with absolute specificity. Here we demonstrate the feasibility of the approach for two distinct MMP proteases, MMP-12 and MT1-MMP (MMP-14).
In vitro, topographical and biophysical cues arising from the extracellular matrix (ECM) direct skeletal stem cell (SSC) commitment and differentiation. However, the mechanisms by which the SSC-ECM interface is regulated and the outcome of such interactions on stem cell fate in vivo remain unknown. Here we demonstrate that conditional deletion of the membrane-anchored metalloproteinase MT1-MMP (Mmp14) in mesenchymal progenitors, but not in committed osteoblasts, redirects SSC fate decisions from osteogenesis to adipo- and chondrogenesis. By effecting ECM remodeling, MT1-MMP regulates stem cell shape, thereby activating a β1-integrin/RhoGTPase signaling cascade and triggering the nuclear localization of the transcriptional coactivators YAP and TAZ, which serve to control SSC lineage commitment. These data identify a critical MT1-MMP/integrin/YAP/TAZ axis operative in the stem cell niche that oversees SSC fate determination.
Cell invasion through basement membrane (BM) during development, immune surveillance, and metastatic cancer remains poorly understood. We have completed the first in vivo screen for regulators of cell invasion through BM, using the simple model of C. elegans anchor cell invasion, and identified 99 genes that promote invasion, including the chaperonin complex cct. Notably, most of these genes have not been previously implicated in cell invasive behavior. We further characterized members of the cct complex and 11 other genes, determining the distinct aspects of the invasive cascade that they regulate, including formation of a specialized invasive cell membrane and its ability to breach the BM. Suggesting a shared genetic program underlies cell invasion, siRNA knockdown of the human orthologs of cct-5 and lit-1, both previously unknown pro-invasive genes, reduced the invasiveness of metastatic carcinoma cells. Our results reveal the genetic underpinnings of cell invasion and provide new potential therapeutic targets to limit this behavior.
The physical limits of cell migration in dense porous environments are dependent upon the available space and the deformability of the nucleus and are modulated by matrix metalloproteinases, integrins and actomyosin function.
Cell migration through 3D tissue depends on a physicochemical balance between cell deformability and physical tissue constraints. Migration rates are further governed by the capacity to degrade ECM by proteolytic enzymes, particularly matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), and integrin- and actomyosin-mediated mechanocoupling. Yet, how these parameters cooperate when space is confined remains unclear. Using MMP-degradable collagen lattices or nondegradable substrates of varying porosity, we quantitatively identify the limits of cell migration by physical arrest. MMP-independent migration declined as linear function of pore size and with deformation of the nucleus, with arrest reached at 10% of the nuclear cross section (tumor cells, 7 µm2; T cells, 4 µm2; neutrophils, 2 µm2). Residual migration under space restriction strongly depended upon MMP-dependent ECM cleavage by enlarging matrix pore diameters, and integrin- and actomyosin-dependent force generation, which jointly propelled the nucleus. The limits of interstitial cell migration thus depend upon scaffold porosity and deformation of the nucleus, with pericellular collagenolysis and mechanocoupling as modulators.
FAK promotes the epithelial–mesenchymal transition in mouse embryonic cells by regulating the transcription factor Snail1.
Mouse embryonic cells isolated from focal adhesion kinase (FAK)–null animals at embryonic day 7.5 display multiple defects in focal adhesion remodeling, microtubule dynamics, mechanotransduction, proliferation, directional motility, and invasion. To date, the ability of FAK to modulate cell function has been ascribed largely to its control of posttranscriptional signaling cascades in this embryonic cell population. In this paper, we demonstrate that FAK unexpectedly exerts control over an epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) program that commits embryonic FAK-null cells to an epithelial status highlighted by the expression of E-cadherin, desmoplakin, and cytokeratins. FAK rescue reestablished the mesenchymal characteristics of FAK-null embryonic cells to generate committed mouse embryonic fibroblasts via an extracellular signal–related kinase– and Akt-dependent signaling cascade that triggered Snail1 gene expression and Snail1 protein stabilization. These findings indentify FAK as a novel regulator of Snail1-dependent EMT in embryonic cells and suggest that multiple defects in FAK−/− cell behavior can be attributed to an inappropriate commitment of these cells to an epithelial, rather than fibroblastic, phenotype.
Expression of the essential EMT inducer Snail1 is inhibited by miR-34 through a p53-dependent regulatory pathway.
Snail1 is a zinc finger transcriptional repressor whose pathological expression has been linked to cancer cell epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) programs and the induction of tissue-invasive activity, but pro-oncogenic events capable of regulating Snail1 activity remain largely uncharacterized. Herein, we demonstrate that p53 loss-of-function or mutation promotes cancer cell EMT by de-repressing Snail1 protein expression and activity. In the absence of wild-type p53 function, Snail1-dependent EMT is activated in colon, breast, and lung carcinoma cells as a consequence of a decrease in miRNA-34 levels, which suppress Snail1 activity by binding to highly conserved 3′ untranslated regions in Snail1 itself as well as those of key Snail1 regulatory molecules, including β-catenin, LEF1, and Axin2. Although p53 activity can impact cell cycle regulation, apoptosis, and DNA repair pathways, the EMT and invasion programs initiated by p53 loss of function or mutation are completely dependent on Snail1 expression. These results identify a new link between p53, miR-34, and Snail1 in the regulation of cancer cell EMT programs.
Current in vivo models for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) have limitations in simulating some essential tumorigenic phenotypes, such as invasion. Most mouse models of human HNSCC are inadequate because tumor cells are injected directly into the connective tissue, thereby bypassing the basement membrane of the surface epithelium, the first barrier to invasion. In this manuscript, we establish the chick chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) assay as an in vivomodel of human HNSCC tumor progression. Using the CAM model of HNSCC, we investigated the role of enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2), a histone methyltransferase, in multiple aspects of HNSCC tumor progression. We found that knockdown of EZH2 reduced tumor size, angiogenesis, invasion, and metastasis of tumors produced by grafting human HNSCC cells onto the CAM. In addition, we demonstrate that EZH2 expression mediates a mesenchymal phenotype in HNSCC cell lines and mouse tumors. These findings demonstrate the advantages of the newly proposed CAM model of human HNSCC and highlight the emerging role of EZH2 in HSNCC tumor progression.
Although loss of p53 function and activation of canonical Wnt signaling cascades are frequently coupled in cancer, the links between these two pathways remain unclear. We report here that p53 transactivates miRNA-34 (miR-34), which suppresses the transcriptional activity of β-catenin-T-cell factor/lymphoid enhancer factor (TCF/LEF) complexes by targeting the untranslated regions (UTRs) of a set of highly-conserved targets in a network of Wnt pathway-regulated genes. Loss of p53 function increases canonical Wnt signaling through miR-34-specific interactions with target UTRs, whereas miR-34 depletion relieves p53-mediated Wnt repression. Further, gene expression signatures reflecting the status of β-catenin-TCF/LEF transcriptional activity in breast cancer and pediatric neuroblastoma patients are closely associated with p53 and miR-34 functional status. Loss of p53 or miR-34 contributed to neoplastic progression by triggering the Wnt-dependent, tissue-invasive activity of colorectal cancer cells. Further, during development, miR-34 interactions with the β-catenin UTR determine Xenopus body axis polarity and Wnt-dependent gene patterning. These data provide insight into the mechanisms by which a p53-miR-34 network restrains canonical Wnt signaling cascades in developing organisms and human cancer.
Tissue invasion during metastasis requires cancer cells to negotiate a stromal environment dominated by cross-linked networks of type I collagen. Although cancer cells are known to use proteinases to sever collagen networks and thus ease their passage through these barriers, migration across extracellular matrices has also been reported to occur by protease-independent mechanisms, whereby cells squeeze through collagen-lined pores by adopting an ameboid phenotype. We investigate these alternate models of motility here and demonstrate that cancer cells have an absolute requirement for the membrane-anchored metalloproteinase MT1-MMP for invasion, and that protease-independent mechanisms of cell migration are only plausible when the collagen network is devoid of the covalent cross-links that characterize normal tissues.
Epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) is required for mesodermal differentiation during development. The zinc-finger transcription factor, Snail1, can trigger EMT and is sufficient to transcriptionally reprogram epithelial cells toward a mesenchymal phenotype during neoplasia and fibrosis. Whether Snail1 also regulates the behavior of terminally differentiated mesenchymal cells remains unexplored. Using a Snai1 conditional knockout model, we now identify Snail1 as a regulator of normal mesenchymal cell function. Snail1 expression in normal fibroblasts can be induced by agonists known to promote proliferation and invasion in vivo. When challenged within a tissue-like, three-dimensional extracellular matrix, Snail1-deficient fibroblasts exhibit global alterations in gene expression, which include defects in membrane type-1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP)-dependent invasive activity. Snail1-deficient fibroblasts explanted atop the live chick chorioallantoic membrane lack tissue-invasive potential and fail to induce angiogenesis. These findings establish key functions for the EMT regulator Snail1 after terminal differentiation of mesenchymal cells.
Membrane type-1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP) drives cell invasion through three-dimensional (3-D) extracellular matrix (ECM) barriers dominated by type I collagen or fibrin. Based largely on analyses of its impact on cell function under two-dimensional culture conditions, MT1-MMP is categorized as a multifunctional molecule with 1) a structurally distinct, N-terminal catalytic domain; 2) a C-terminal hemopexin domain that regulates substrate recognition as well as conformation; and 3) a type I transmembrane domain whose cytosolic tail controls protease trafficking and signaling cascades. The MT1-MMP domains that subserve cell trafficking through 3-D ECM barriers in vitro or in vivo, however, remain largely undefined. Herein, we demonstrate that collagen-invasive activity is not confined strictly to the catalytic, hemopexin, transmembrane, or cytosolic domain sequences of MT1-MMP. Indeed, even a secreted collagenase supports invasion when tethered to the cell surface in the absence of the MT1-MMP hemopexin, transmembrane, and cytosolic tail domains. By contrast, the ability of MT1-MMP to support fibrin-invasive activity diverges from collagenolytic potential, and alternatively, it requires the specific participation of MT-MMP catalytic and hemopexin domains. Hence, the tissue-invasive properties of MT1-MMP are unexpectedly embedded within distinct, but parsimonious, sequences that serve to tether the requisite matrix-degradative activity to the surface of migrating cells.
In primary human melanoma, the membrane-type matrix metalloproteinase, MT3-MMP, is overexpressed in the most aggressive nodular-type tumors. Unlike MT1-MMP and MT2-MMP, which promote cell invasion through basement membranes and collagen type I-rich tissues, the function of MT3-MMP in tumor progression remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate that MT3-MMP inhibits MT1-MMP-driven melanoma cell invasion in three-dimensional collagen, while yielding an altered, yet MT1-MMP-dependent, form of expansive growth behavior that phenocopies the formation of nodular cell colonies. In melanoma cell lines originating from advanced primary or metastatic lesions, endogenous MT3-MMP expression was associated with limited collagen-invasive potential. In the cell lines with highest MT3-MMP expression relative to MT1-MMP, collagen-invasive activity was increased following stable MT3-MMP gene silencing. Consistently, MT3-MMP overexpression in cells derived from less advanced superficially spreading melanoma lesions, or in the MT3-MMP knockdown cells, reduced MT1-MMP-dependent collagen invasion. Rather than altering MT1-MMP transcription, MT3-MMP interacted with MT1-MMP in membrane complexes and reduced its cell surface expression. By contrast, as a potent fibrinolytic enzyme, MT3-MMP induced efficient invasion of the cells in fibrin, a provisional matrix component frequently found at tumor-host tissue interfaces and perivascular spaces of melanoma. Since MT3-MMP was significantly upregulated in biopsies of human melanoma metastases, these results identify MT3-MMP as a matrix-dependent modifier of the invasive tumor cell functions during melanoma progression.
Chronic exposure of the liver to hepatotoxic agents initiates an aberrant wound healing response marked by proinflammatory, as well as fibrotic, changes, leading to compromised organ structure and function. In a variety of pathological states, correlative links have been established between tissue fibrosis and the expression of transcription factors associated with the induction of epithelial-mesenchymal cell transition (EMT) programs similar to those engaged during development. However, the role played by endogenously derived, EMT-associated transcription factors in fibrotic states in vivo remains undefined. Using a mouse model of acute liver fibrosis, we demonstrate that hepatocytes upregulate the expression of the zinc finger transcriptional repressor, Snail1, during tissue remodeling. Hepatocyte-specific ablation of Snail1 demonstrates that this transcription factor plays a key role in liver fibrosis progression in vivo by triggering the proximal genetic programs that control multiple aspects of fibrogenesis, ranging from growth factor expression and extracellular matrix biosynthesis to the ensuing chronic inflammatory responses that characterize this class of pathological disorders.
During pathologic vessel remodeling, vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) embedded within the collagen-rich matrix of the artery wall mobilize uncharacterized proteolytic systems to infiltrate the subendothelial space and generate neointimal lesions. Although the VSMC-derived serine proteinases, plasminogen activator and plasminogen, the cysteine proteinases, cathepsins L, S, and K, and the matrix metalloproteinases MMP-2 and MMP-9 have each been linked to pathologic matrix-remodeling states in vitro and in vivo, the role that these or other proteinases play in allowing VSMCs to negotiate the three-dimensional (3-D) cross-linked extracellular matrix of the arterial wall remains undefined. Herein, we demonstrate that VSMCs proteolytically remodel and invade collagenous barriers independently of plasmin, cathepsins L, S, or K, MMP-2, or MMP-9. Instead, we identify the membrane-anchored matrix metalloproteinase, MT1-MMP, as the key pericellular collagenolysin that controls the ability of VSMCs to degrade and infiltrate 3-D barriers of interstitial collagen, including the arterial wall. Furthermore, genetic deletion of the proteinase affords mice with a protected status against neointimal hyperplasia and lumen narrowing in vivo. These studies suggest that therapeutic interventions designed to target MT1-MMP could prove beneficial in a range of human vascular disease states associated with the destructive remodeling of the vessel wall extracellular matrix.
During angiogenesis, endothelial cells initiate a tissue-invasive program within an interstitial matrix comprised largely of type I collagen. Extracellular matrix–degradative enzymes, including the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) MMP-2 and MMP-9, are thought to play key roles in angiogenesis by binding to docking sites on the cell surface after activation by plasmin- and/or membrane-type (MT) 1-MMP–dependent processes. To identify proteinases critical to neovessel formation, an ex vivo model of angiogenesis has been established wherein tissue explants from gene-targeted mice are embedded within a three-dimensional, type I collagen matrix. Unexpectedly, neither MMP-2, MMP-9, their cognate cell-surface receptors (i.e., β3 integrin and CD44), nor plasminogen are essential for collagenolytic activity, endothelial cell invasion, or neovessel formation. Instead, the membrane-anchored MMP, MT1-MMP, confers endothelial cells with the ability to express invasive and tubulogenic activity in a collagen-rich milieu, in vitro or in vivo, where it plays an indispensable role in driving neovessel formation.
As cancer cells traverse collagen-rich extracellular matrix (ECM) barriers and intravasate, they adopt a fibroblast-like phenotype and engage undefined proteolytic cascades that mediate invasive activity. Herein, we find that fibroblasts and cancer cells express an indistinguishable pericellular collagenolytic activity that allows them to traverse the ECM. Using fibroblasts isolated from gene-targeted mice, a matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)–dependent activity is identified that drives invasion independently of plasminogen, the gelatinase A/TIMP-2 axis, gelatinase B, collagenase-3, collagenase-2, or stromelysin-1. In contrast, deleting or suppressing expression of the membrane-tethered MMP, MT1-MMP, in fibroblasts or tumor cells results in a loss of collagenolytic and invasive activity in vitro or in vivo. Thus, MT1-MMP serves as the major cell-associated proteinase necessary to confer normal or neoplastic cells with invasive activity.
In white adipose tissue, adipocytes and adipocyte precursor cells are enmeshed in a dense network of type I collagen fibrils. The fate of this pericellular collagenous web in diet-induced obesity, however, is unknown. This study seeks to identify the genetic underpinnings of proteolytic collagen turnover and their association with obesity progression in mice and humans.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
The hydrolysis and degradation of type I collagen at early stages of high-fat diet feeding was assessed in wild-type or MMP14 (MT1-MMP)-haploinsufficient mice using immunofluorescent staining and scanning electron microscopy. The impact of MMP14-dependent collagenolysis on adipose tissue function was interrogated by transcriptome profiling with cDNA microarrays. Genetic associations between MMP14 gene common variants and obesity or diabetes traits were examined in a Japanese cohort (n = 3,653).
In adult mice, type I collagen fibers were cleaved rapidly in situ during a high-fat diet challenge. By contrast, in MMP14 haploinsufficient mice, animals placed on a high-fat diet were unable to remodel fat pad collagen architecture and display blunted weight gain. Moreover, transcriptional programs linking type I collagen turnover with adipogenesis or lipogenesis were disrupted by the associated decrease in collagen turnover. Consistent with a key role played by MMP14 in regulating high-fat diet–induced metabolic programs, human MMP14 gene polymorphisms located in proximity to the enzyme's catalytic domain were closely associated with human obesity and diabetes traits.
Together, these findings demonstrate that the MMP14 gene, encoding the dominant pericellular collagenase operative in vivo, directs obesogenic collagen turnover and is linked to human obesity traits.
Human macrophages found in juxtaposition to fragmented elastin in vivo express the elastolytic matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) progelatinase B, prometalloelastase, and promatrilysin. Though MMPs can degrade a range of extracellular matrix components, increasing evidence suggests that preferred targets in vivo include nonmatrix substrates such as chemokines and growth factors. Hence, the means by which MMPs participate in elastin turnover remain undefined as does the identity of the elastolysins. Herein, human macrophage cultures have been established that express a complement of elastolytic proteinases similar, if not identical, to that found in vivo. Under plasminogen-free conditions, macrophages preferentially use metalloelastase to mediate elastolysis via a process that deposits active enzyme on elastin surfaces. By contrast, in the presence of plasminogen, human macrophages up-regulate proteolysis 10-fold by processing promatrilysin to an active elastolysin via a urokinase-type plasminogen activator-dependent pathway. Matrilysin-deficient human macrophages fail to mediate an elastolytic response despite the continued expression of gelatinase B and metalloelastase. Thus, acting in concert with cosecreted cysteine proteinases whose activities are constrained to sites of macrophage-elastin contact (Punturieri, A., S. Filippov, E. Allen, I. Caras, R. Murray, V. Reddy, and S.J. Weiss. 2000. J. Exp. Med. 192:789–799), matrilysin confers macrophages with their most potent MMP-dependent elastolytic system.
cysteine proteinase; elastin; macrophage; matrix metalloproteinase; plasminogen
Cross-linked fibrin is deposited in tissues surrounding wounds, inflammatory sites, or tumors and serves not only as a supporting substratum for trafficking cells, but also as a structural barrier to invasion. While the plasminogen activator-plasminogen axis provides cells with a powerful fibrinolytic system, plasminogen-deleted animals use alternate proteolytic processes that allow fibrin invasion to proceed normally. Using fibroblasts recovered from wild-type or gene-deleted mice, invasion of three-dimensional fibrin gels proceeded in a matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-dependent fashion. Consistent with earlier studies supporting a singular role for the membrane-anchored MMP, MT1-MMP, in fibrin-invasive events, fibroblasts from MT1-MMP–null mice displayed an early defect in invasion. However, MT1-MMP–deleted fibroblasts circumvented this early deficiency and exhibited compensatory fibrin-invasive activity. The MT1-MMP–independent process was sensitive to MMP inhibitors that target membrane-anchored MMPs, and further studies identified MT2-MMP and MT3-MMP, but not MT4-MMP, as alternate pro-invasive factors. Given the widespread distribution of MT1-, 2-, and 3-MMP in normal and neoplastic cells, these data identify a subset of membrane-anchored MMPs that operate in an autonomous fashion to drive fibrin-invasive activity.
matrix metalloproteinases; MT-MMP; fibrin; proteolysis; invasion
With this issue of the JCI, we celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Journal. While 80 years is not a century, we still feel it is important to honor what the JCI has meant to the biomedical research community for 8 decades. To illustrate why the JCI is the leading general-interest translational research journal edited by and for biomedical researchers, we have asked former JCI editors-in-chief to reflect on some of the major scientific advances reported in the pages of the Journal during their tenures.
Human macrophages mediate the dissolution of elastic lamina by mobilizing tissue-destructive cysteine proteinases. While macrophage-mediated elastin degradation has been linked to the expression of cathepsins L and S, these cells also express cathepsin K, a new member of the cysteine proteinase family whose elastinolytic potential exceeds that of all known elastases. To determine the relative role of cathepsin K in elastinolysis, monocytes were differentiated under conditions in which they recapitulated a gene expression profile similar to that observed at sites of tissue damage in vivo. After a 12-d culture period, monocyte-derived macrophages (MDMs) expressed cathepsin K in tandem with cathepsins L and S. Though cysteine proteinases are acidophilic and normally confined to the lysosomal network, MDMs secreted cathepsin K extracellularly in concert with cathepsins L and S. Simultaneously, MDMs increased the expression of vacuolar-type H+-ATPase components, acidified the pericellular milieu, and maintained extracellular cathepsin K in an active form. MDMs from a cathepsin K–deficient individual, however, retained the ability to express, process, and secrete cathepsins L and S, and displayed normal elastin-degrading activity. Thus, matrix-destructive MDMs exteriorize a complex mix of proteolytic cysteine proteinases, but maintain full elastinolytic potential in the absence of cathepsin K by mobilizing cathepsins L and S.
cysteine proteinases; macrophages; cathepsin K; elastinolysis; pycnodysostosis
During tissue-invasive events, migrating cells penetrate type I collagen-rich interstitial tissues by mobilizing undefined proteolytic enzymes. To screen for members of the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) family that mediate collagen-invasive activity, an in vitro model system was developed wherein MDCK cells were stably transfected to overexpress each of ten different MMPs that have been linked to matrix remodeling states. MDCK cells were then stimulated with scatter factor/hepatocyte growth factor (SF/HGF) to initiate invasion and tubulogenesis atop either type I collagen or interstitial stroma to determine the ability of MMPs to accelerate, modify, or disrupt morphogenic responses. Neither secreted collagenases (MMP-1 and MMP-13), gelatinases (gelatinase A or B), stromelysins (MMP-3 and MMP-11), or matrilysin (MMP-7) affected SF/HGF-induced responses. By contrast, the membrane-anchored metalloproteinases, membrane-type 1 MMP, membrane-type 2 MMP, and membrane-type 3 MMP (MT1-, MT2-, and MT3-MMP) each modified the morphogenic program. Of the three MT-MMPs tested, only MT1-MMP and MT2-MMP were able to directly confer invasion-incompetent cells with the ability to penetrate type I collagen matrices. MT-MMP–dependent invasion proceeded independently of proMMP-2 activation, but required the enzymes to be membrane-anchored to the cell surface. These findings demonstrate that MT-MMP–expressing cells can penetrate and remodel type I collagen-rich tissues by using membrane-anchored metalloproteinases as pericellular collagenases.
collagen; metalloproteinases; scatter factor/hepatocyte growth factor; mock; tubulogenesis