Protein ‘Scissors’ Cut Path for Cancer

February 21, 2011 | Leigh MacMillan

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Metastatic prostate cancer – cancer that has spread beyond the prostate gland – can be treated, but not cured. To understand how prostate cancer cells degrade tissue barriers to break free of the prostate, Vito Quaranta, M.D., and colleagues, are exploring the actions of a protein called matriptase.

Matriptase, a sort of molecular scissors that cuts other proteins, has high levels of expression in prostate tumor samples and may be involved in cancer progression, but its role is not clear. The researchers examined whether it “cuts” laminin-332, an essential component of the prostate tissue barrier.

The studies, spearheaded by Manisha Tripathi and Daniel Kirchhofer, Ph.D., showed that matriptase cleaves laminin-332, and that this action affects prostate cancer cell migration. Prostate cancer cells expressing high levels of matriptase migrated faster and in a more directionally persistent manner than cells expressing low levels of the protein. The findings, reported in the Feb. 1 issue of the journal The Prostate, provide new insight into possible mechanisms for matriptase and laminin-332 in cancer progression.

For other research highlights from Vanderbilt University Medical Center laboratories, see ‘Aliquots‘ in the VUMC Reporter.

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