Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which degrade the components of the extracellular matrix, are key enzymes involved in the tissue remodeling of multicellular organisms. Since MMPs are secreted as inactive zymogens (pro-MMPs), they have to be activated to function. We identified a membrane-type MMP (MT-MMP) that activated proMMP-2 (pro-gelatinase A = 72 kDa type IV pro-collagenase) and described its expression on the invasive tumor cell surface. In this study we further examined the expression and role of MT-MMP in the activation of proMMP-2 during mouse embryogenesis. Northern blotting demonstrated that MT-MMP expression was increased together with that of MMP-2 and its inhibitor gene, TIMP-2, in embryos depending upon the number of days after gestation, and decreased with maturation after birth. In situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry localized MT-MMP mRNA and protein in the cells of ossifying tissues where both MMP-2 and TIMP-2 were expressed. Activated MMP-2 was detected by gelatin zymography in the lysates prepared from the micro dissected tissues that expressed the three genes. The activation rate of proMMP-2 was proportional to the expression of MMP-2 and MT-MMP. These results indicated that proMMP-2 activation through its activator, MT-MMP, is a physiological system used by organisms to initiate tissue remodeling on the cell surface.
- © 1996 by Company of Biologists