Open Access Open Badges Research article

Anti-matrix metalloproteinase-9 DNAzyme decreases tumor growth in the MMTV-PyMT mouse model of breast cancer

Miranda A Hallett1, Bin Teng1, Hisashi Hasegawa1, Luciana P Schwab2, Tiffany N Seagroves2 and Tayebeh Pourmotabbed1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Biochemistry, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, 858 Madison Ave., Memphis, TN 38163, USA

2 Center for Cancer Research, Department of Pathology, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, 19 S. Manassas St., Memphis TN 38163, USA

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Breast Cancer Research 2013, 15:R12  doi:10.1186/bcr3385

Published: 13 February 2013



Despite continued improvements in diagnosis, surgical techniques, and chemotherapy, breast cancer patients are still overcome by cancer metastasis. Tumor cell proliferation, invasion and metastasis are mediated, at least in part, through degradation of basement membrane by neutral matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) produced by tumor and stromal cells. Evidence suggests that MMP-9 plays a significant role in breast tumor cell invasion and metastasis. DNAzymes or catalytic oligonucleotides are new classes of gene targeting molecules that bind and cleave a specific mRNA, resulting in decreased protein expression.


The application of anti-MMP-9 DNAzyme (AM9D) for the treatment of primary and metastatic breast cancer was evaluated in vitro and in vivo using MDA-MB-231 cells and the MMTV-PyMT transgenic breast cancer mouse model. Spontaneously developed mammary tumors in MMTV-PyMT transgenic mice were treated intratumorally with naked AM9D, once a week for 4 weeks. The stability of DNAzyme was determined in vitro and in vivo using fluorescently labeled DNAzyme.


AM9D specifically inhibited expression of MMP-9 in MDA-MB-231 cells resulting in reduced invasive property of these cells by 43%. Weekly intratumoral treatment of spontaneously developed mammary tumors in MMTV-PyMT transgenic mice was sufficient to significantly reduce the rate of tumor growth and final tumor load in a dose dependent and statistically significant manner (P < 0.05). This decrease in tumor growth was correlated with decreased MMP-9 protein production within the treated tumor tissues. Tumors treated with AM9D were also less vascularized and contained more apoptotic cells compared to control and untreated tumors.


These results show that targeting and down regulation of MMP-9 by AM9D could prove useful as a therapy against breast carcinoma tumor growth and invasion.