Open Access Research article

Fibroblast-derived MT1-MMP promotes tumor progression in vitro and in vivo

Wenyue Zhang1, Lynn M Matrisian2, Kenn Holmbeck3, Catherine C Vick4 and Eben L Rosenthal1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Surgery, Division of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA

2 Department of Cancer Biology, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN, USA

3 National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, Bethesda, MD, USA

4 Department of Surgery, Division of Gastrointestinal Surgery, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA

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BMC Cancer 2006, 6:52  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-52

Published: 6 March 2006



Identification of fibroblast derived factors in tumor progression has the potential to provide novel molecular targets for modulating tumor cell growth and metastasis. Multiple matrix metalloproteases (MMPs) are expressed by both mesenchymal and epithelial cells within head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs), but the relative importance of these enzymes and the cell source is the subject of controversy.


The invasive potential of HNSCC tumor cells were assessed in vitro atop type I collagen gels in coculture with wild-type (WT), MMP-2 null, MMP-9 null or MT1-MMP null fibroblasts. A floor of mouth mouse model of HNSCC was used to assess in vivo growth after co-injection of FaDu tumor cells with MMP null fibroblasts.


Here we report changes in tumor phenotype when FaDu HNSCCs cells are cocultured with WT, MMP-2 null, MMP-9 null or MT1-MMP null fibroblasts in vitro and in vivo. WT, MMP-2 null and MMP-9 null fibroblasts, but not MT1-MMP null fibroblasts, spontaneously invaded into type I collagen gels. WT fibroblasts stimulated FaDu tumor cell invasion in coculture. This invasive phenotype was unaffected by combination with MMP-9 null fibroblasts, reduced with MMP-2 null fibroblasts (50%) and abrogated in MT1-MMP null fibroblasts. Co-injection of FaDu tumor cells with fibroblasts in an orthotopic oral cavity SCID mouse model demonstrated a reduction of tumor volume using MMP-9 and MMP-2 null fibroblasts (48% and 49%, respectively) compared to WT fibroblasts. Consistent with in vitro studies, MT1-MMP null fibroblasts when co-injected with FaDu cells resulted in a 90% reduction in tumor volume compared to FaDu cells injected with WT fibroblasts.


These data suggest a role for fibroblast-derived MMP-2 and MT1-MMP in HNSCC tumor invasion in vitro and tumor growth in vivo.