Regulation of membrane type-1 matrix metalloproteinase activity and intracellular localization in clinical thoracic aortic aneurysms

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Membrane type-1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP) is elevated during thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) development in mouse models, and plays an important role in the activation of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and the release of matrix- bound transforming growth factor-β. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that MT1-MMP is subject to protein kinase C (PKC)–mediated regulation, which alters intracellular trafficking and activity with TAAs.


Levels of MMP-2, native and phosphorylated MT1-MMP, and PKC-δ were measured in aortic tissue from patients with small TAAs (<5 cm; n = 8) and large TAAs (>6.5 cm; n = 8), and compared with values measured in normal controls (n = 8). Cellular localization of green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagged MT1-MMP was assessed in aortic fibroblasts isolated from control and 4-week TAA mice. The effects of PKC-mediated phosphorylation on MT1-MMP cellular localization and function (active MMP-2 vs phospo-Smad2 abundance) were assessed after treatment with a PKC activator (phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate [PMA], 100 nM) with and without a PKC-δ–specific inhibitor (röttlerin, 3 μM).


Compared with controls, MT1-MMP abundance was increased in aortas from both TAA groups. Active MMP-2 was increased only in the large TAA group. The abundances of phosphorylated MT1-MMP and activated PKC-δ were enhanced in the small TAA group compared with the large TAA group. MT1-MMP was localized on the plasma membrane in aortic fibroblasts from control mice and in endosomes from TAA mice. Treatment with PMA induced MT1-MMP-GFP internalization, enhanced phospho-Smad2, and reduced MMP-2 activation, whereas röttlerin pretreatment inhibited these effects.


Phosphorylation of MT1-MMP mediates its activity through directing cellular localization, shifting its role from MMP-2 activation to intracellular signaling. Thus, targeted inhibition of MT1-MMP may have therapeutic relevance as an approach to attenuating TAA development.

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