The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a major component of the cellular microenvironment and plays diverse roles which constantly undergo different process of regulations such as branching morphogenesis, angiogenesis and wound repair. The ECM is composed of a large collection of biochemically and structurally diverse components and these components can be divided into proteins, proteoglycans, and glycoproteins. Some of the ECM proteins including fibrillar collagens and elastin, contributing to the major tensile strength and viscoelasticity of the tissue by forming fibrils. The changes of ECM composition and topography can be caused by the ECM dynamics deregulated in human cancers, which plays an important role in cancer initiation and progression. In addition, ECM components with deregulated biomechanical properties can also be oncogenic. The ECM also regulates the activation of immune cells. Although collagen type I promotes infiltration of certain immune cells, it also inhibits the ability of macrophages to kill cancer cells by blocking polarization, and thus activation of macrophages.
The degradation of extracellular matrix (ECM) is an important part of cell migration and invasion when cells across the natural barriers to cell migration. When migration cells move within a tissue or invading across blood vessels which are similar to extravagating immune cells and metastatic cancer cells, the degrading and remodeling the ECM is required. An effective strategy to degrade the extracellular matrix is by proteinases. The most significant enzymes which can degrade the protein components and cause the degradation of the extracellular matrix are metalloproteinases including matrix metalloproteinase (MMP). There is general agreement that MMPs are important in the execution of migration and invasion through the matrix, which is based on abundant experimental results. The majority of MMPs are secreted proteins generally requiring activation for enzymatic activity. A few are true transmembrane proteins which are expressed at the cell surface in activated form. The research on the degradation of extracellular matrix (ECM) is useful to study the underlying mechanisms of cell migration and tumor invasion.
Figure 1: The experimental results of extracellular matrix
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