Increased invasiveness of MMP-9-deficient tumors in two mouse models of neuroendocrine tumorigenesis
Despite their apparent success in pre-clinical trials, metalloproteinase (MMP) inhibitors proved to be inefficacious in clinical settings. In an effort to understand the underlying causes of this unanticipated outcome, we modeled the consequences of long-term MMP inhibition by removing one of the major players in tumorigenesis, MMP9, in two complimentary mouse models of pancreatic neuroendocrine carcinogenesis: Myc;BclXl and RIP1-Tag2. By employing gel zymography and a fluoregenic solution assay, we first established that MMP9 is expressed and activated in Myc;BclXl tumors in an interleukin-1β-dependent manner. The genetic deletion of MMP9 in Myc;BclXl mice impairs tumor angiogenesis and growth analogous to its absence in the RIP1-Tag2 model. Notably, tumors that developed in the context of MMP9-deficient backgrounds in both models were markedly more invasive than their typical wild-type counterparts, and expressed elevated levels of pro-invasive cysteine cathepsin B. The increased invasion of MMP9-deficient tumors was associated with a switch in the spectrum of inflammatory cells at the tumor margins, involving homing of previously undetected, cathepsin-B expressing CD11b;Gr1-positive cells to the invasive fronts. Thus, plasticity in the tumor inflammatory compartment is partially responsible for changes in the expression pattern of tumor-associated proteases, and may contribute to the compensatory effects observed on MMP inhibition, hence accounting for the heightened tumor progression described in late stage clinical trials.