Proteolytic Enzymes and the Invasive Process

Proteolytic enzymes have been demonstrated to have a role not only in the degradation of the ECM, but also in the release of factors that regulate the growth and behavior of cells. Under normal conditions, proteases and their inhibitors are finely balanced, allowing appropriate remodeling of the ECM to maintain normal tissue architecture.181 Breakdown of this balance is a fundamental step in the progression of a tumor from a benign to a malignant state. Of the various classes of proteases capable of degrading components of the ECM, the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and plasminogen activator family are most strongly implicated in cancer progression.

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