The Role of Cathepsins in Involution and Breast Cancer

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Cysteine cathepsins are proteolytic enzymes that reside in endolysosomal vesicles. Some are expressed constitutively while others are transcriptionally regulated. However, the expression and subcellular localization of cathepsins changes during cancer progression and cathepsins have been shown to be causally involved in various aspects of tumorigenesis including metastasis. The use of mouse models of breast cancer genetically ablated for cathepsin B has shown that both the growth of the primary tumor and the extend of lung metastasis is reduced by the loss of cathepsin B. The role of cathepsins in involution of the mammary gland has received little attention although it is clear that cathepsins are involved in tissue remodeling in the second phase of involution. We discuss here the roles of cathepsins and their endogenous inhibitors in breast tumorigenesis and post-lactational involution.

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