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The precursor of matrix metalloproteinase 9 (pro-MMP-9, progelatinase B) noncovalently binds to tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases (TIMP)-1 through the C-terminal domain of each molecule. We have isolated the proMMP-9.TIMP-1 complex from the medium of human fibrosarcoma HT-1080 cells and investigated the activation processes of the complex by 4-aminophenylmercuric acetate, trypsin, and matrix metalloproteinase 3 (MMP-3, stromelysin 1). The treatment of the proMMP-9.TIMP-1 complex with 4-aminophenylmercuric acetate or trypsin converts proMMP-9 to lower molecular weight species corresponding to active forms, but no gelatinolytic activity is detected. The lack of enzymic activity results from binding of TIMP-1 to the activated MMP-9. The treatment of the proMMP-9.TIMP-1 complex with a possible physiological proMMP-9 activator, MMP-3, does not reveal any gelatinolytic activity unless the molar ratio of MMP-3 to the complex exceeds 1. This is due to the inhibition of MMP-3 by TIMP-1 forming a ternary proMMP-9.TIMP-1.MMP-3 complex. The formation of the ternary complex weakens the interaction between proMMP-9 and TIMP-1, resulting in partial dissociation of the complex into proMMP-9 and the TIMP-1.MMP-3 complex. When MMP-3 is in excess, the propeptide is completely processed, and the full activity of MMP-9 is detected. Similarly, the proMMP-9.TIMP-1 complex inhibits MMP-1 (interstitial collagenase) and in turn renders the proMMP-9 activable by a catalytic amount of MMP-3. These results suggest that formation of the proMMP-9.TIMP-1 complex regulates extracellular matrix breakdown in tissue by switching the predominant MMP activity from one type to another.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





18506 - 18511


Collagenases, Enzyme Activation, Enzyme Precursors, Extracellular Matrix, Glycoproteins, Humans, Macromolecular Substances, Matrix Metalloproteinase 3, Matrix Metalloproteinase 9, Metalloendopeptidases, Phenylmercuric Acetate, Protein Binding, Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinases, Trypsin, Tumor Cells, Cultured