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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Activity and expression of urokinase-type plasminogen activator and matrix metalloproteinases in human colorectal cancer

Tae-Dong Kim2, Kyoung-Sub Song2, Ge Li1, Hoon Choi1, Hae-Duck Park1, Kyu Lim23, Byung-Doo Hwang23 and Wan-Hee Yoon13*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Surgery, College of Medicine, Chungnam National University and Hospital, Daejeon, 301-721, Korea

2 Department of Biochemistry, College of Medicine, Chungnam National University, Daejeon, 301-721, Korea

3 Cancer Research Institute, Chungnam National University, Daejeon, Korea

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BMC Cancer 2006, 6:211  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-211

Published: 18 August 2006



Matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2), matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), and urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA) are involved in colorectal cancer invasion and metastasis. There is still debate whether the activity of MMP-2 and MMP-9 differs between tumors located in the colon and rectum. We designed this study to determine any differences in the expression of MMP-2, MMP-9 and uPA system between colon and rectal cancer tissues.


Cancer tissue samples were obtained from colon carcinoma (n = 12) and rectal carcinomas (n = 10). MMP-2 and MMP-9 levels were examined using gelatin zymography and Western blotting; their endogenous inhibitors, tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-2 (TIMP-2) and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1), were assessed by Western blotting. uPA, uPAR and PAI-1 were examined using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The activity of uPA was assessed by casein-plasminogen zymography.


In both colon and rectal tumors, MMP-2, MMP-9 and TIMP-1 protein levels were higher than in corresponding paired normal mucosa, while TIMP-2 level in tumors was significantly lower than in normal mucosa. The enzyme activities or protein levels of MMP-2, MMP-9 and their endogenous inhibitors did not reach a statistically significant difference between colon and rectal cancer compared with their normal mucosa. In rectal tumors, there was an increased activity of uPA compared with the activity in colon tumors (P = 0.0266), however urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR) and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) showed no significant difference between colon and rectal cancer tissues.


These findings suggest that uPA may be expressed differentially in colon and rectal cancers, however, the activities or protein levels of MMP-2, MMP-9, TIMP-1, TIMP-2, PAI-1 and uPAR are not affected by tumor location in the colon or the rectum.