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Plasminogen binding and activation at the breast cancer cell surface: the integral role of urokinase activity

DOI: 10.1186/bcr1647

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We have studied plasminogen binding to MCF-7 in which urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR) levels were upregulated by PMA (12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate) stimulation, allowing flexible and transient modulation of cell-surface uPA. Similar experiments were also performed using MDA-MB-231 cells, which overexpress uPAR/uPA endogenously. Using techniques that preserve cell integrity, we characterise the role of uPA as both a plasminogen receptor and activator and quantify the relative contribution of pre-formed and cryptic plasminogen receptors to plasminogen binding.Cell-surface plasminogen binding was significantly enhanced in the presence of elevated levels of uPA in an activity-dependent manner and was greatly attenuated in the presence of the plasmin inhibitor aprotinin. Pre-formed receptors were also found to contribute to increased plasminogen binding after PMA stimulation and to co-localise with uPA/uPAR and plasminogen. Nevertheless, a relatively modest increase in plasminogen-binding capacity coupled with an increase in uPA led to a dramatic increase in the proteolytic capacity of these cells.We show that the majority of lysine-dependent plasminogen binding to breast cancer cells is ultimately regulated by plasmin activity and is dependent on the presence of significant levels of active uPA. The existence of a proteolytic positive feedback loop in plasminogen activation has profound implications for the ability of breast cancer cells expressing high amounts of uPA to accumulate a large proteolytic capacity at the cell surface, thereby conferring invasive potential.The components of the plasminogen activation system (PAS) are important determinants of metastatic capacity, participating in both proteolytic and non-proteolytic pathways during cancer progression [1,2]. Plasminogen (plg), the central zymogen in the PAS, is secreted as a single-chain glycosylated protein with an N-terminal glutamic acid (Glu) residue, five kringle regions containin


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