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The hydrolysis of collagen (collagenolysis) is one of the committed steps in extracellular matrix turnover. Within the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) family distinct preferences for collagen types are seen. The substrate determinants that may guide these specificities are unknown. In this study, we have utilized 12 triple-helical substrates in combination with 10 MMPs to better define the contributions of substrate sequence and thermal stability toward triple helicase activity and collagen specificity. In general, MMP-13 was found to be distinct from MMP-8 and MT1-MMP(Delta279-523), in that enhanced substrate thermal stability has only a modest effect on activity, regardless of sequence. This result correlates to the unique collagen specificity of MMP-13 compared with MMP-8 and MT1-MMP, in that MMP-13 hydrolyzes type II collagen efficiently, whereas MMP-8 and MT1-MMP are similar in their preference for type I collagen. In turn, MMP-1 was the least efficient of the collagenolytic MMPs at processing increasingly thermal stable triple helices and thus favors type III collagen, which has a relatively flexible cleavage site. Gelatinases (MMP-2 and MMP-9(Delta444-707)) appear incapable of processing more stable helices and are thus mechanistically distinct from collagenolytic MMPs. The collagen specificity of MMPs appears to be based on a combination of substrate sequence and thermal stability. Analysis of the hydrolysis of triple-helical peptides by an MMP mutant indicated that Tyr(210) functions in triple helix binding and hydrolysis, but not in processing triple helices of increasing thermal stabilities. Further exploration of MMP active sites and exosites, in combination with substrate conformation, may prove valuable for additional dissection of collagenolysis and yield information useful in the design of more selective MMP inhibitors.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





38302 - 38313


Amino Acid Sequence, Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid, Circular Dichroism, Collagen, Enzyme Stability, Hydrolysis, Kinetics, Matrix Metalloproteinases, Molecular Sequence Data, Peptide Hydrolases, Spectrometry, Mass, Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption-Ionization, Substrate Specificity