Low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein/α2-macroglobulin receptor (LRP) is a surface membrane endocytic receptor, one of whose many functions is the regulation of plasminogen activator-mediated cell migration. LRP is known to have a role in migration and invasion, but its direct involvement has been demonstrated only in non-tumour cells. We investigated six breast cancer cell lines and a normal mammary epithelial cell clone for surface and total cellular LRP expression, and confirmed that its presence corresponds to the ability to invade and migrate in vitro. We showed that LRP in the tumour cell lines is expressed at a wide range of levels: from ∼300 to ∼6,300 sites per cell. Four of the breast cancer cell lines expressed LRP at over 1,000 sites/cell and were markedly invasive in our assay, the remainder of the cell lines and the normal clone having far fewer LRP sites and lacking invasive ability. We further showed that the migratory and invasive abilities of a highly invasive breast cancer cell line are both inhibited by receptor-associated protein, a unique LRP ligand which normally has a solely intracellular distribution but which, when added to culture medium, can inhibit all other ligand interactions with this receptor.

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