Moloney murine leukemia virus (Mo-MuLV) is a thymotropic and leukemogenic retrovirus which causes T lymphomas and leukemias, yet does not contain a transforming gene product. Mo-MuLV has been shown to trans-activate cellular genes via a polymerase III-generated transcript, designated let, from the long terminal repeat (LTR). Here we demonstrate that introduction of the Mo-MuLV LTR stably, or transiently, into murine or human cultured cells resulted in an 8- to 15-fold increase in collagenase IV (92-kDa gelatinase, gelatinase B, matrix metalloproteinase-9) gene expression. Collagenase IV protein expression was induced 9-fold by stable integration of MuLV LTR, as measured by immunoblot analysis using an anti-collagenase IV polyclonal antibody. The MuLV LTR coordinately stimulated the proteolytic activity of collagenase IV by 14-fold. The AP-1-binding site in the collagenase IV promoter was required for transactivation by the LTR. Collagenase type IV degrades type IV collagen, a major component of basement membrane, which constitutes the first step of the metastatic cascade. The activation of proteolytic enzymes by the MuLV LTR may thus play a contributory role in the development or spread of virus-induced lymphomas or leukemias.
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