Extracellular vesicles enriched with moonlighting metalloproteinase are highly transmissive, pro-tumorigenic, and trans-activates cellular communication network factor (Ccn2/ctgf): Crispr against cancer

Yuka Okusha, Takanori Eguchi, Manh T. Tran, Chiharu Sogawa, Kaya Yoshida, Mami Itagaki, Eman A. Taha, Kisho Ono, Eriko Aoyama, Hirohiko Okamura, Ken Ichi Kozaki, Stuart K. Calderwood, Masaharu Takigawa, Kuniaki Okamoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Matrix metalloproteinase 3 (MMP3) plays multiple roles in extracellular proteolysis as well as intracellular transcription, prompting a new definition of moonlighting metalloproteinase (MMP), according to a definition of protein moonlighting (or gene sharing), a phenomenon by which a protein can perform more than one function. Indeed, connective tissue growth factor (CTGF, aka cellular communication network factor 2 (CCN2)) is transcriptionally induced as well as cleaved by MMP3. Moreover, several members of the MMP family have been found within tumor-derived extracellular vesicles (EVs). We here investigated the roles of MMP3-rich EVs in tumor progression, molecular transmission, and gene regulation. EVs derived from a rapidly metastatic cancer cell line (LuM1) were enriched in MMP3 and a C-terminal half fragment of CCN2/CTGF. MMP3-rich, LuM1-derived EVs were disseminated to multiple organs through body fluid and were pro-tumorigenic in an allograft mouse model, which prompted us to define LuM1-EVs as oncosomes in the present study. Oncosome-derived MMP3 was transferred into recipient cell nuclei and thereby trans-activated the CCN2/CTGF promoter, and induced CCN2/CTGF production in vitro. TRENDIC and other cis-elements in the CCN2/CTGF promoter were essential for the oncosomal responsivity. The CRISPR/Cas9-mediated knockout of MMP3 showed significant anti-tumor effects such as the inhibition of migration and invasion of tumor cells, and a reduction in CCN2/CTGF promoter activity and fragmentations in vitro. A high expression level of MMP3 or CCN2/CTGF mRNA was prognostic and unfavorable in particular types of cancers including head and neck, lung, pancreatic, cervical, stomach, and urothelial cancers. These data newly demonstrate that oncogenic EVs-derived MMP is a transmissive trans-activator for the cellular communication network gene and promotes tumorigenesis at distant sites.

Original languageEnglish
Article number881
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020



  • Cellular communication network factor
  • Extracellular vesicles
  • Genome editing
  • Matrix metalloproteinase
  • Moonlighting metalloproteinase (MMP)
  • Oncosome
  • Protein moonlighting
  • Transcription factor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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