, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 459-470

Seprase, a membrane-bound protease, alleviates the serum growth requirement of human breast cancer cells

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Abstract

Seprase is a cell surface serine protease that is expressed to high levels by infiltrating ductal carcinomas of the breast but its function in malignancy is unknown. MDA-MB-435 (WT435) and MDA-MB-436 (WT436) human breast cancer cells express high levels of seprase as do the carcinoma cells in tumors of human breast cancer patients. To investigate its role in the pathobiology of breast cancer, seprase was specifically reduced in WT436 and WT435 cells by expression of antisense seprase cDNA. Decreased expression of seprase was confirmed in the antisense transfectants by zymography, immunoblotting, and fluorescence-activated cell sorting of cells labeled with antibody to seprase. Control-transfectants continued to express high levels of seprase. Seprase-deficient cells growing on type I collagen gels reveal a markedly different morphology than the parental or control-transfected cells that express high levels of seprase. The seprase-deficient cells grow in islands and aggregates of tightly attached cells while cells with high seprase expression grow as groups of separate individual cells. Interestingly, the aggregated growth of the seprase-deficient cells was not correlated with increased expression of E-cadherin. Seprase-deficient breast cancer cells also exhibit altered growth properties. Seprase-deficient cells and those with high seprase levels proliferate in serum-containing media. However, in serum-free medium seprase-deficient cells proliferate much more slowly than their seprase-expressing counterparts. These findings indicate that seprase promotes the aberrant growth of breast cancer cells by reducing their dependence on exogenous growth factors. Seprase may contribute to the pathogenesis of breast cancer by promoting growth of the primary tumor and by facilitating the growth of breast cancer cells in metastases at other sites of the body.

This revised version was published online in July 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.