Collagenolytic proteinases play an important pathological role in the invasion and metastasis of cancer cells. However, little is known about the role of interstitial collagenase (matrix metalloproteinase-1; MMP-1) in this process. To investigate the expression of the MMP-1 gene in cancer tissues, an in situ hybridization study was carried out in gastrointestinal tract cancers (one esophageal cancer, five gastric cancers, and four colorectal cancers), using a35S-labeled MMP-1 cDNA probe. The MMP-1 gene was expressed in the stromal cells of fibrous tissue around cancer nests, especially at the margin of invasion and/or within the cancer nest; however, no definite expression within cancer cells was observed. Expression of the MMP-1 gene in the stromal cells was more common in well differentiated gastric adenocarcinoma than in poorly differentiated adenocarcinomas. These findings indicate that expression of the MMP-1 gene is greater in stromal cells that are closely associated with cancer cells, suggesting a pathophysiological role of MMP-1 in the invasion and metastasis of cancer cells.
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