The membrane tethered matrix metalloproteinase MT1-MMP at the forefront of melanoma cell invasion and metastasis

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The Extracellular Matrix (ECM) plays an important role in normal physiological development and functioning of cells, tissues and organs [1]. Under normal physiological conditions degradation of the ECM is a finely regulated process, and altered homeostasis of ECM degradation (excessive or insufficient) is associated with many diseases [2–5] such as cancer, fibrosis, arthritis, nephritis, encephalomyelitis and chronic ulcers. The remodeling of the ECM is carried out by a family of enzymes known as matrix metalloproteinases (MMP). MMPs constitute a large group of multidomain, zinc dependent endopeptidases capable of hydrolyzing all protein components of the ECM [6]. Additional functions of MMPs have also been identified. MMPs, and in particular MT1-MMP, the prototypic membrane-tethered matrix metalloproteinase, are no longer only ECM remodeling enzymes but rather regulators of several cellular functions including growth, migration, invasion and gene expression. Here we will focus on the role of the membrane bound MT1-MMP in melanoma growth, invasion and metastasis. MT1-MMP has in fact emerged as a multifaceted protease capable of influencing melanoma metastasis by canonical means, i.e. ECM degradation, but also via regulation of genes involved in several pro-tumorigenic functions including tumor cell growth and motility.

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