Epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor (EGFR) is frequently elevated in epithelial ovarian cancer, and E-cadherin expression is often reduced in advanced disease. In this study, we investigated a mechanism by which EGFR activation promotes disruption of adherens junctions through induction of matrix metalloproteinase 9 (MMP-9). We show that EGFR activation down-modulates E-cadherin, and broad spectrum MMP inhibition ameliorates EGF-stimulated junctional disruption and loss of E-cadherin protein. MMP-9 involvement in EGF-dependent down-regulation of E-cadherin was determined by siRNA specifically directed against MMP-9. Furthermore, treatment with recombinant MMP-9 or transient expression of MMP-9 is sufficient to reduce E-cadherin levels in differentiated ovarian tumor cells. Stable overexpression of MMP-9 led to a loss of E-cadherin and junctional integrity, and promoted a migratory and invasive phenotype. Thus, elevated MMP-9 protein expression is sufficient for junctional disruption and loss of E-cadherin in these cells. The associations between EGFR activation, MMP-9 expression, and E-cadherin were investigated in human ovarian tumors and paired peritoneal metastases wherein immunohistochemical staining for activated (phospho) EGFR and MMP-9 colocalized with regions of reduced E-cadherin. These data suggest that regulation of MMP-9 by EGFR may represent a novel mechanism for down-modulation of E-cadherin in ovarian cancer.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research