Tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs) are multifaceted molecules that exhibit properties beyond their classical proteinase inhibitory function. Although TIMP-1 is a known inhibitor of apoptosis in mammalian cells, the mechanisms by which it exerts its effects are not well-established. Our earlier studies using H2009 lung adenocarcinoma cells, implanted in the CNS, showed that TIMP-1 overexpressing H2009 cells (HB-1), resulted in more aggressive tumor kinetics and increased vasculature. The present study was undertaken to elucidate the role of TIMP-1 in the context of apoptosis, using the same lung cancer cell lines. Overexpressing TIMP-1 in a lung adenocarcinoma cell line H2009 resulted in an approximately 3-fold increased expression of Bcl-2, with a marked reduction in apoptosis upon staurosporine treatment. This was an MMP-independent function as a clone expressing TIMP-1 mutant T2G, lacking MMP inhibition activity, inhibited apoptosis as strongly as TIMP1 overexpressing clones, as determined by inhibition of PARP cleavage. Immunoprecipitation of Bcl-2 from cell lysates also co-immunoprecipitated TIMP-1, indicative of an interaction between these two proteins. This interaction was specific for TIMP-1 as TIMP-2 was not present in the Bcl-2 pull-down. Additionally, we show a co-dependency of TIMP-1 and Bcl-2 RNA and protein levels, such that abrogating Bcl-2 causes a downregulation of TIMP-1 but not TIMP-2. Finally, we demonstrate that TIMP-1 dependent inhibition of apoptosis occurs through p90RSK, with phosphorylation of the pro-apoptotic protein BAD at serine 112, ultimately reducing Bax levels and increasing mitochondrial permeability. Together, these studies define TIMP-1 as an important cancer biomarker and demonstrate the potential TIMP-1 as a crucial therapeutic target.
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