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Proteases play fundamentally important roles in normal physiology and disease pathology. Methods for detection of active proteolysis may greatly aid in the diagnosis of disease progression, and suggest modes of therapeutic intervention. Most assays for proteolytic potential are limited by a lack of specificity and/or quantification. We have developed a solid-phase activity assay for members of the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) family that is specific and can be used to quantify active enzyme concentration. The assay has two principal components: a capture antibody that immobilizes the MMP without perturbing the enzyme active site, and a fluorescence resonance energy transfer substrate for monitoring proteolysis at low enzyme concentrations. The assay was standardized for MMP-1, MMP-3, MMP-13, and MMP-14. The efficiency of the assay was found to be critically dependent upon the quality of the antibodies, the use of substrates exhibiting high specific activities for the enzymes, and enzyme samples that are fresh. The assay was applied to studies of constitutive and induced MMP activity in human melanoma cells. Analysis of several melanoma cell lines, and comparison with prior studies, correlated higher constitutive MMP-13 activity with higher levels of the cell surface receptor CD44. Ligands to two different melanoma cell surface receptors (the alpha2beta1 integrin or CD44) were found to induce different proteolytic profiles, suggesting that the extracellular matrix can modulate melanoma invasion. Overall, the solid-phase MMP activity assay was found to be valuable for analysis of protease activity in cellular environments. The solid-phase assay is suitably flexible to allow studies of virtually any proteolytic enzyme for which appropriate substrates and antibodies are available.


Journal article


J biomol tech

Publication Date





305 - 316


Amino Acid Sequence, Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay, Humans, Matrix Metalloproteinases, Melanoma, Molecular Sequence Data, Substrate Specificity