Matrix metalloproteinases in neural development: a phylogenetically diverse perspective

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Wolters Kluwer Health


The matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a family of zinc-dependent endopeptidases originally characterized as secreted proteases responsible for degrading extracellular matrix proteins. Their canonical role in matrix remodelling is of significant importance in neural development and regeneration, but emerging roles for MMPs, especially in signal transduction pathways, are also of obvious importance in a neural context. Misregulation of MMP activity is a hallmark of many neuropathologies, and members of every branch of the MMP family have been implicated in aspects of neural development and disease. However, while extraordinary research efforts have been made to elucidate the molecular mechanisms involving MMPs, methodological constraints and complexities of the research models have impeded progress. Here we discuss the current state of our understanding of the roles of MMPs in neural development using recent examples and advocate a phylogenetically diverse approach to MMP research as a means to both circumvent the challenges associated with specific model organisms, and to provide a broader evolutionary context from which to synthesize an understanding of the underlying biology.