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Keywords:

  • matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs);
  • angiogenesis;
  • tumor angiogenesis;
  • MMP inhibitors;
  • extracellular matrix remodeling;
  • tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs);
  • thrombospondins

Abstract

Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a family of enzymes that proteolytically degrade various components of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Angiogenesis is the process of forming new blood vessels from existing ones and requires degradation of the vascular basement membrane and remodeling of the ECM in order to allow endothelial cells to migrate and invade into the surrounding tissue. MMPs participate in this remodeling of basement membranes and ECM. However, it has become clear that MMPs contribute more to angiogenesis than just degrading ECM components. Specific MMPs have been shown to enhance angiogenesis by helping to detach pericytes from vessels undergoing angiogenesis, by releasing ECM-bound angiogenic growth factors, by exposing cryptic proangiogenic integrin binding sites in the ECM, by generating promigratory ECM component fragments, and by cleaving endothelial cell-cell adhesions. MMPs can also contribute negatively to angiogenesis through the generation of endogenous angiogenesis inhibitors by proteolytic cleavage of certain collagen chains and plasminogen and by modulating cell receptor signaling by cleaving off their ligand-binding domains. A number of inhibitors of MMPs that show antiangiogenic activity are already in early stages of clinical trials, primarily to treat cancer and cancer-associated angiogenesis. However, because of the multiple effects of MMPs on angiogenesis, careful testing of these MMP inhibitors is necessary to show that these compounds do not actually enhance angiogenesis.