The effects of the antitumorigenic drug estramustine on tumor cell membrane penetration (invasion) were investigated in vitro by utilizing a synthetic basement membrane system (a modified Boyden chamber). Tumor cells were plated on a “partition barrier,” consisting of a porous filter (8-µm pores) which was coated with a reconstituted basement membrane matrix (Matrigel), and induced to migrate across the barrier with conditioned medium obtained from 9DU 145 human prostatic tumor cells (passage 9). Quantitative radiolabeling studies demonstrated that specially isolated lines (isolated by several passages through the Matrigel) of DU 145 cells, A2058 melanoma, and B16-F10 melanoma cells were highly invasive such that 15 to 20% migrated across a 1-mm-thick Matrigel layer within 5 h at 37°C. NIH-3T3 cells, mouse fibroblasts, and 20DU 145 cells (passage 20) exhibited little or no membrane invasive behavior. Micromolar concentrations of estramustine (30 to 120 µm) inhibited invasion by the invasive cell lines in a dosage-dependent fashion. Quantitative enzymatic assays and radioimmune assays demonstrated that estramustine inhibited membrane invasion by blocking type IV collagenase secretion. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and Western blots confirmed that 30 to 60 µm estramustine blocked secretion of a Mr 105,000 collagenase protein. Indirect studies showed that a collagenase antibody raised against the Mr 105,000 protein and inhibitors of proteinase activity, including a metalloproteinase inhibitor, and 1,10-phenanthroline, blocked invasion. Because the antibodies inhibited type IV collagenase digestion of 3H-mouse type IV collagen, and invasion simultaneously, it is proposed that collagenolytic activity is involved in invasion. These data demonstrate that estramustine blocks proteinase secretion, and suggest that estramustine may be a useful therapeutic drug for the prevention of metastasis.

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Supported by NIH Grant CA 45425 to M. E. S.

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