Published for the Institute of Biomedical Science and the Academy of Clinical Science and Laboratory Medicine by Step Publishing Ltd

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ADAMs and ADAMTSs in cancer

REVIEW ARTICLE: Br J Biomed Sci 2009; 66(2); 117-128

S. L. Turner, M. E. Blair-Zajdel, R. A. D. Bunning

Biomedical Research Centre, Sheffield Hallam University, Howard Street, Sheffield S1 1WB

ADAM proteins
ADAMTS proteins, human
Neoplasm metastasis


ADAMs and ADAMTSs are multi-domain proteins characterised by the presence of both metalloproteinase and disintegrin-like domains. ADAM proteins are usually type l transmembrane proteins, and ADAMTSs are secreted from cells. The dysregulated expression of ADAMs and ADAMTSs has been reported in a wide range of human cancers, where, in many cases, they are implicated as positive regulators of cancer progression. Proteolytically active ADAMs act as ectodomain sheddases, which release extracellular regions of membrane-bound proteins (e.g., adhesion molecules, growth factors, cytokines, chemokines and receptors). Certain ADAMTSs break down extracellular matrix (ECM) proteoglycans (e.g., aggrecan, brevican and versican). Through these actions they are able to sculpt the tumour microenvironment and modulate key processes involved in cancer progression, including cell proliferation, migration and angiogenesis. Members of both groups of protein can also act to inhibit or slow cancer progression: ADAMs can interact with specific integrins to elicit inhibitory effects on cancer dissemination, and certain ADAMTSs possess antiangiogenic activity, which prevents an increase in tumour size. This review covers recent developments in the involvement of ADAM and ADAMTS proteins in human cancer.

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