The invasion-promoting, tumorigenic membrane-type 1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP), a transmembrane proteinase with extracellular catalytic, hemopexin (PEX) and hinge domains, and a short cytoplasmic tail, forms a stoichiometric complex with its physiological protein inhibitor, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-2 (TIMP-2). It is well established that the proteolytic activity of MT1-MMP is required for tumor cell invasion and proliferation, and that TIMP-2 binds to the catalytic domain of MT1-MMP and blocks its proteolytic activity. Our extensive, recently published studies have shown that, in addition to extracellular proteolysis, MT1-MMP and TIMP-2 control cell proliferation and migration through a non-proteolytic mechanism. TIMP-2 binding to MT1-MMP induces activation of Extracellular signal-Regulated Kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) by a mechanism independent of the MT1-MMP catalytic domain and the inhibitory domain of TIMP- 2. This effect involves TIMP-2 binding to the hemopexin and/or hinge domain and is mediated by the cytoplasmic tail of MT1-MMP. MT1-MMP-mediated activation of ERK1/2 upregulates cell migration and proliferation in vitro independently of extracellular matrix proteolysis. Consistent with this finding, proteolytically inactive MT1-MMP promotes tumor growth in vivo with an effect comparable to that of wild- type MT1-MMP. While these observations do not diminish the well-established importance of the proteolytic interactions involving TIMP-2 and MT1-MMP, our novel, unexpected findings strongly advocate a very important role for the proteolysis-independent signaling mechanism we identified. Because the ERK1/2 signaling pathway controls a variety of tumor cell functions including proliferation and migration, a detailed understanding of the molecular mechanism by which TIMP-2 - MT1-MMP interaction activates this signaling pathway can provide fundamental information for designing novel inhibitors to block tumor progression. Therefore, we propose to explore this novel signaling mechanism in detail by developing the following Specific Aims: 1) To identify the region(s) of the MT1-MMP PEX and/or hinge domains that mediate TIMP-2 binding and ERK1/2 activation, 2) To identify the region(s) of TIMP-2 required for binding to the PEX and/or hinge domain of MT1-MMP;3) To characterize the mechanism of signal transduction from MT1-MMP to the Ras-ERK1/2 pathway;4) To determine the functional role of TIMP-2 - MT1-MMP interaction in tumor growth in vivo. For this purpose we will use state-of-the-art molecular, cellular and immunological techniques and a tumor xenograft model in immunodeficient mice. The results of our study will lead to the understanding of the non-proteolytic role of MT1-MMP and TIMP-2 in tumor growth, and afford the development of novel inhibitors aimed to block MT1-MMP - TIMP-2 interaction and the generation of intracellular signaling that promotes tumor progression.
We found an unexpected, paradigm-shifting mechanism that controls tumor cell proliferation and migration, as well as tumor growth in an experimental in vivo model. Therefore, we propose to study in detail this novel mechanism and its functional role in tumor growth. The knowledge derived from our study will be of fundamental importance for designing novel pharmacological agents to block tumor progression.
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