We found that thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1) has opposite functions on angiogenesis depending on the nature of the proteolytic fragment released in vivo by the action of proteases. We studied the effect of the 25 and 140 kDa fragments of TSP-1 generated by its proteolytic cleavage on the cascade of mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) activation and matrix-metalloproteinase (MMP)/tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP) function and expression in microvascular endothelium. Post-capillary endothelial cells (CVEC) isolated from bovine heart were used. The 25 kDa fragment enhanced the upregulation of MMP-2 and -9 and reduced TIMP-2 expression leading to CVEC chemoinvasion. Conversely, the 140 kDa fragment blocked MMP-2 and -9 stimulation and doubled TIMP-2 expression, leading to inhibition of endothelial chemoinvasion induced by fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2). MAPK activity (ERK1-2) was induced by TSP-1 and by the 25 kDa fragment, but not by the 140 kDa fragment which, however, promoted MAPK p38 activation. This evidence indicates that fragments originating from TSP-1 switch the pro- or anti-angiogenic phenotype in endothelium by targeting MAPK cascades with opposite functions on MMP/TIMP balance.
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