The recently discovered tumor suppressor gene maspin has been shown to inhibit tumor cell motility, invasion, and metastasis in breast cancer by our laboratories. Nonetheless, the exploitation of maspin as a potential diagnostic and/or therapeutic tool has remained limited due to the lack of knowledge concerning its molecular and biological mechanism(s) of action. The work reported here demonstrates that recombinant maspin (rMaspin) has the ability to induce higher cell surface levels of α5- and α3-containing integrins and reduced levels of α2, α4-, α6-, αv-, and some β1-containing integrins in the metastatic human breast carcinoma cell line MDA-MB-435 concomitant with its ability to inhibit the invasive process in vitro. Furthermore, treatment of MDA-MB-435 cells with rMaspin results in the selective adhesion of the cell to a fibronectin matrix and conversion from a fibroblastic to a more epithelial-like phenotype. In addition, the ability of rMaspin to inhibit the invasive process can be abrogated with a blocking antibody to the α5β1 integrin, which diminishes the ability of the cells to invade through a fibronectin matrix-containing barrier in vitro. Taken together, these data address the hypothesis that rMaspin reduces the invasive phenotype of MDA-MB-435 cells by altering their integrin profile, particularly α5, which in turn converts these cells to a more benign epithelial phenotype, with less invasive ability. These data provide new insights into the biological significance of this tumor suppressor gene found in normal mammary epithelium and may form the basis of novel therapeutic strategies in the management of breast carcinoma.


The research was funded by NIH Grants CA75681 (to M. J. C. H.) and CA61253 (to R. S.), the Carver Trust Medical Initiative Research Grant (University of Iowa; to M. J. C. H.), and the Marilyn Rozeboom Endowment from the Order of the Eastern Star (to M. J. C. H.).

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