Cell interactions with extracellular matrices are important to pathological changes that occur during cell transformation and tumorigenesis. Several extracellular matrix proteins including fibronectin, thrombospondin-1, laminin, SPARC, and osteopontin have been suggested to modulate tumor phenotype by affecting cell migration, survival, or angiogenesis. Likewise, proteases including the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are understood to not only facilitate migration of cells by degradation of matrices, but also to affect tumor formation and growth. We have recently demonstrated an in vivo role for the RGD-containing protein, osteopontin, during tumor progression, and found evidence for distinct functions in the host versus the tumor cells. Because of the compartmentalization and temporal regulation of MMP expression, it is likely that MMPs may also function dually in host stroma and the tumor cell. In addition, an important function of proteases appears to be not only degradation, but also cleavage of matrix proteins to generate functionally distinct fragments based on receptor binding, biological activity, or regulation of growth factors.
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