Matrix metalloproteases (MMPs) play a crucial role in tissue remodelling in a variety of physiological and pathological processes. Hyaluronan is also involved in the same processes. Several cytokines and growth factors are involved in the regulation of the biosynthesis of hyaluronan and also of MMPs. The activity of MMPs has been shown to be regulated at the level of transcription and activation of the zymogen form.
In order to explore the possible relationship between matrix components and especially hyaluronan, we studied the effect of hyaluronan on MMP expression (biosynthesis and activation) in the culture of human skin fibroblasts and corneal keratocytes (explant cultures and cell cultures). These cells were shown to exhibit distinct phenotypes as far as matrix biosynthesis is concerned. Using a synthetic substrate N-Suc(ala)3pNA, we measured elastase-type endopeptidase activity produced by fibroblasts and keratocytes and characterized the MMPs by zymography.
Hyaluronan added to fibroblast cultures stimulated the membrane-bound elastase-type endopeptidase activity in a dose dependent fashion. Similar results were obtained with keratocyte cultures. In the presence of 1mg/ml hyaluronan there was an increase in MMP expression and also an activation of latent MMPs both by fibroblasts and keratocytes.