Roles of NGAL and MMP-9 in the tumor microenvironment and sensitivity to targeted therapy

Saverio Candido, Stephen L. Abrams, Linda S. Steelman, Kvin Lertpiriyapong, Timothy L. Fitzgerald, Alberto M. Martelli, Lucio Cocco, Giuseppe Montalto, Melchiorre Cervello, Jerry Polesel, Massimo Libra, James A. McCubrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Various, diverse molecules contribute to the tumor microenvironment and influence invasion and metastasis. In this review, the roles of neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) and matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) in the tumor microenvironment and sensitivity to therapy will be discussed. The lipocalin family of proteins has many important functions. For example when NGAL forms a complex with MMP-9 it increases its stability which is important in cancer metastasis. Small hydrophobic molecules are bound by NGAL which can alter their entry into and efflux from cells. Iron transport and storage are also influenced by NGAL activity. Regulation of iron levels is important for survival in the tumor microenvironment as well as metastasis. Innate immunity is also regulated by NGAL as it can have bacteriostatic properties. NGAL and MMP-9 expression may also affect the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy as well as targeted therapy. Thus NGAL and MMP-9 play important roles in key processes involved in metastasis as well as response to therapy. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Tumor Microenvironment Regulation of Cancer Cell Survival, Metastasis, Inflammation, and Immune Surveillance edited by Peter Ruvolo and Gregg L. Semenza.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)438-448
Number of pages11
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Cell Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Drug resistance
  • Iron transport
  • Lcn2
  • Lipocalins
  • MMP-9
  • NGAL
  • Siderocalins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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