The plasminogen activation system in tumor growth, invasion, and metastasis
Generation of the serine proteinase plasmin from the extracellular zymogen plasminogen can be catalyzed by either of two other serine proteinases, the urokinase- and tissue-type plasminogen activators (uPA and tPA). The plasminogen activation system also includes the serpins PAI-1 and PAI-2, and the uPA receptor (uPAR). Many findings, gathered over several decades, strongly suggest an important and causal role for uPA-catalyzed plasmin generation in cancer cell invasion through the extracellular matrix. Recent evidence suggests that the uPA system is also involved in cancer cell-directed tissue remodeling. Moreover, the system also supports cell migration and invasion by plasmin-independent mechanisms, including multiple interactions between uPA, uPAR, PAI-1, extracellular matrix proteins, integrins, endocytosis receptors, and growth factors. These interactions seem to allow temporal and spatial reorganizations of the system during cell migration and a selective degradation of extracellular matrix proteins during invasion. The increased knowledge about the plasminogen activation system may allow utilization of its components as targets for anti-invasive therapy.
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